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Hugley appreciates Bucs' magical ride

Joe Avento • Mar 11, 2020 at 7:35 PM

JOHNSON CITY — As the East Tennessee State players were celebrating their Southern Conference basketball championship, nobody was happier than Joe Hugley.

Hugley was the first one to start the celebration on the bench in the waning moments of the Bucs’ win over Wofford on Monday night, waving a towel and yelling toward the stands full of ETSU fans. Later, his smile lit up the room during the postgame interviews. He looked like a guy who couldn’t believe his good fortune. He even mentioned the possibility of crying on the bus ride home.

“I don’t know when it’s going to hit me, but we did something big time in the history of this program,” Hugley said.

Hugley has been in the program for less than a year, but he’s part of the team that has won more games — 30 — than any other in the history of ETSU basketball.

The versatile 6-foot-7 forward transferred to ETSU from Central Connecticut State, a team that finished this season 4-27. It’s safe to say he made the right decision.

Hugley recalls how excited he was when ETSU first started recruiting him once he entered the transfer portal. He had already graduated, so he was eligible to play immediately.

“I said I’ll do anything I need to do to win,” he said. “I don’t care if I play five or how many minutes, when I get on the court, I had to be effective and be efficient in my time.”

Hugley didn’t know it at the time, but that attitude was setting a tone of unselfishness, and that might have been his biggest contribution to the team.

“How many fifth-year senior graduate transfers are going to play a role?” Bucs coach Steve Forbes said. “Most of those guys want to be starters and shoot the ball. He’s just a phenomenal teammate.”

Hugley helped ETSU beat Wofford in the SoCon championship game with eight points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes of playing time.

“He’s an energy guy,” Forbes said. “I had to calm him down a little bit.”

The Bucs will spend the next few days preparing for the NCAA Tournament, and it’s safe to say that Hugley will appreciate every moment now that he knows he’ll be ending his career on college basketball’s biggest stage.

“I’m just so excited,” he said. “It’s something I dreamed about coming here. We still got a lot to go.”