Boys Basketball: 6-5 Hughes has skill to go with size

Dan Hughes, attacking the basket during Shoreham-Wading River's intrasquad scrimmage last Thursday night, has ball skills to go with his 6-foot 5-inch frame. (Credit: Garret Meade)
Dan Hughes, attacking the basket during Shoreham-Wading River’s intrasquad scrimmage last Thursday night, has ball skills to go with his 6-foot 5-inch frame. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Dan Hughes is 6 feet 5 inches tall. In the world of high school boys basketball, that usually means one thing: He’s a center.

As it turns out, though, Hughes is anything but a center.

“You can list him as a guard or even a forward, but he’s not a center,” said Shoreham-Wading River’s coach, Kevin Culhane.

What Hughes has is the height of a college or pro shooting guard, and his skills are good. The Shoreham senior isn’t a typical 6-5 high school player. He can dribble and he can shoot. Versatility is his game.

“My dad always has me work on my handle at home, always trying to be the most well-rounded player,” Hughes said. “He said the best trait you could have on a court is versatility. Just doing everything always helps you. It causes a lot of problems for the defense.”

It sure does.

That is why Culhane tries to make the best of Hughes’ talents. He doesn’t pigeonhole Hughes as a post player chained to the blocks. That, he said, would be shortchanging the player.

“He can handle the ball very well,” Culhane said. “He can take guys off the dribble and he’s a very good outside shooter so … I’d be stupid not to let him use his talents and just put  him on the block. He’s very versatile. He’s a tough matchup. You put a small guy in, he can post; you put a big guy on, he can beat him off the dribble.”

A three-sport athlete who also plays football and lacrosse, Hughes said he had a slow start to the first half of the last basketball season. Culhane said Hughes was physically banged up from football. The second half of the season, however, was a different story entirely.

“He had a phenomenal second half of the year,” said Culhane.

In one game at Amityville, Hughes dropped 37 points.

Culhane said Hughes averaged about 19 points and 10 rebounds per game over the second half of the season, finishing with averages of 12 points and 8 rebounds. He was named an All-Conference player, and was up for consideration for All-County.

Since then, Hughes said, he has gotten bigger and stronger. He looks to be in great shape and sounds confident as he prepares for his third varsity season.

“I’ve been trying to improve my quickness and finishing in traffic,” he said. “Last year I shot a lot from the outside. I want to get to the rim more, use my height and size a little bit more.”

Hughes and the 6-3 Jonah Caldwell are returning starters. “For the other three spots I think there’s going to be tremendous competition,” said Culhane.

As for Hughes, Culhane said: “The sky’s the limit. There’s no ceiling for him.”

The Wildcats scrimmaged against themselves Thursday night at Shoreham-Wading River High School after Southold showed up with only three players and forfeit a Town of Brookhaven Summer League game. Hughes displayed the many facets of his game in the scrimmage. Afterward he said, “I just want to do what the team needs of me, you know, whether it’s scoring, passing the ball, rebounding, whatever, just help the team win.”

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