FAIRBORN — The Wright State University men’s basketball program is in the early stages of its non-conference slate, and junior guard Mark Hughes is trying to prove himself with his more defined role on the team.
“I’m taking it one game at a time with everybody depending on me. It feels good to be counted on,” Hughes said. “That means you’re worth something to the team.”
Though he was a facilitator of the offense while playing in high school at Youngstown Ursuline, filling a similar role was an adjustment during his first two seasons at WSU, when he averaged just over 3 points per game. With increased minutes in the first four games this year, he is averaging 10 points and is second on the team in assists per game (2.3).
Hughes attributes part of his improvement to off-season coaching and increased reps in the gym. He said the mental aspect of his game has also been significant in helping him develop as a player.
“My confidence has come a long way from where it was last year,” Hughes said. “I’m not second-guessing myself, and (now I’m) playing the way I know I can.”
WSU coach Scott Nagy says that Hughes is a threat on offense with catch-and-shoot threes, and he’s the Raiders’ strongest on-ball defender. He also helped instill in his guard the new attitude he now carries on the court.
“The biggest way he (Nagy) has helped me is giving me confidence, telling me that I need to score 20 a game and that I could do it,” Hughes said. “Coach believing in me makes me feel better when I’m on the court, knowing that he trusts me to make plays for us. I’m thankful for that because my confidence was the thing I worked on the most this off season.”
When Raider center Parker Ernsthausen is on the floor, Hughes feels they gel offensively, because of their ability to connect with passing.
“When we both get open, we always find each other. He (Ernsthausen) is a really good backdoor passer. We have hookups like that on ball screens,” Hughes said. “I always try to look for him, because he is more of a popper. When I get into the defense I try to throw it back to him, because I know he is going to make that 17 footer.”
If he does find himself doubting his abilities in the midst of a game, Hughes says his teammates are able to change that mindset.
“Any time I’m down, they tell me not to worry about it and move on to the next play,” Hughes said. “You’ve got to have a short memory in basketball, because when you dwell on stuff it affects the following play, and we can’t afford that. My teammates help me get past those mistakes.”
Hughes says he likes the pressure that comes with the expectations of a starter. The Raiders will need that fearless attitude as the season progresses.
“I embrace the role I have,” Hughes said.