Hughes’ college experiences taught him valuable lessons


Photo courtesy of Juriad Hughes Sr. Juriad Hughes Sr. and Jr

Editor’s Note: This is the conclusion of a two-part interview with Juriad Hughes, a former St. Paul Central boys basketball player from 1987 to 1989, and how basketball influenced his life. This week, he discusses in detail his journey and how he wants to pass his lesson on to his son, Juriad Hughes Jr.

Former St. Paul Central Men’s Basketball Star Juriad Hughes Sr. spoke with MSR about his journey and how basketball and his experiences with it prepared him for life.

During this interview at the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center last September, Hughes Sr. explained in more detail his college experience, what she taught him and what he hopes to pass on to his son, Juriad Hughes Jr., an aspiring second-year student-athlete at Irondale High School who started out as a receiver for the varsity football team and excels in track and field and basketball.

S associatestory: Hughes uses lessons learned from the sport he loves

In 1989 Hughes graduated with almost all the honors one could get. He was all-conference, all-metro, all-state, Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, and a finalist for Mr. Basketball to name a few.

According to Hughes, it was in college that he realized it wouldn’t be as easy as high school, for good reason. “When I got to college, I hit a brick wall,” he said. “Everything I had done, I hadn’t worked hard enough for it,” he continued. “It was just enough to get by.”

He realized that, as good as it was, there were others just as good or better. “In college, you realize that there is a player who is taller than you, who is better than you, and the coaches don’t care,” he said. “You winning these ball games is all they care about.”

Hughes also stressed that it was time for him to grow up. “They [coaches] don’t worry about it, ”he reiterated. “If you don’t, no matter what you did at Central, you were a kid back then and now it’s time to be a man.”

Because he didn’t take academics as seriously as he could have, he turned down a chance to play for Georgetown University and legendary coach John Thompson to avoid spending a year on Proposition 48.

“I was 18,” he says. “I wanted to play. I didn’t want to sit for a year so I went JUCO [junior college]. “After a two-year All-American career at Casper Community College (Wyoming), Hughes chose to play at New Mexico State University.

“Things were going really well,” he said. “I averaged 18 points per game. Then my whole world changed.

Hughes tore his Achilles tendon in the season opener and missed his junior year (1991-92). After a long rehab as a red shirt he was back for the 1992-93 season, but things did not go as he had hoped.

“I was back but I wasn’t 100% physically or mentally,” he recalls. “I had my chance at a crucial point in a game, but I was nervous. I choked and never had another chance. I rode on pine the rest of the season.

Then Hughes Sr. got news that no player wants to hear in the summer of 1993. “Coach [Neil McCarthy] told me they were going in a different direction, ”he said. “I was devastated. I lost my confidence. I became very depressed.

McCarthy had his assistants call other schools for Hughes Jr., and he landed in the state of South Dakota. He averaged 24 points per game in his only season as a Jackrabbit. Professional basketball opportunities presented themselves, but Hughes Jr. chose to come home to help his mother, who was battling lupus at the time.

One of the most significant accomplishments, says Hughes Sr., is that he earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel management and tourism. This is something he points out to his son, who is also a student on the Honor Roll.

“Your education can never be taken away from you,” Hughes said emphatically. “Basketball can.”

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