FAIRBORN — The early stages of a college athletic career can often be a tough adjustment period. Wright State guard Mark Hughes has faced this situation, but the way he carries himself could easily turn that around.
There is no shortage of athleticism in Hughes’ family. His mother played basketball in high school, and his father played football. He has four sisters and one brother who all played basketball at varying levels.
“They’ve been very supportive of me. Their basketball background helped me become a better player growing up,” Hughes said. “It was something that I definitely valued because without them I would have had no help.”
Hughes was a standout for Ursuline and led the team to two consecutive regional finals. His experience and confidence given in him by his coach Keith Gunther instilled an ability to lead.
“Me being the best player taught me how to lead and take responsibility for a team,” Hughes said. “My coach definitely depended on me to bring us together when times were tough and help us win.”
For the Raiders as a freshman last season Hughes averaged 3.5 points per game. WSU coach Scott Nagy has been looking to give him a more significant role this year and help him become more confident on the court.
“He (Nagy) expects more from me than I do myself sometimes. It shouldn’t be like that,” Hughes said. “You should always expect the most as a player. His expectations are something I’ve come to step into.”
So far this season Hughes’ minutes and points are down, but a recent ankle injury halted his progress. Though he admits the adjustment to collegiate basketball has been a challenge it shouldn’t be a deterrent.
“You’ve got to accept the coaching and listen to what they are telling you. Ultimately, they know what is best for you and the team,” Hughes said. “I have to take more accountability in myself and really embrace the challenge. The more you fight change you’re only hurting yourself and your team.”
Hughes credits his more seasoned teammates with taking him in under their wing and helping him adjust to his new role last season. Everyday in practice his grit is elevated thanks to his team.
“You’ve got to bring an edge with you everyday to practice. When we do separate teams it gets really competitive,” Hughes said. “It’s helped me be a little tougher and more physical.”
Hughes is a sports science major and expressed an interest in one day helping other athletes reach their full potential as a strength and conditioning coach.
“I want to be around athletes when I’m done playing basketball to help them be better on or off the court,” Hughes said. “I want to be able to motivate people and give an example of how hard work really pays off in the weight room.”
As a member of the student-athlete advisory committee (SAAC) Hughes and other WSU athletes discuss ways to improve athletics at the university and organize community service opportunities.
“I think it’s great because of the community service opportunities,” Hughes said. “Maigan Larsen (oversees SAAC) does a great job of making sure we get out in the community and serve others.”
When recalling a moment that has stood out in his young WSU career, it was losing last season’s Horizon League championship game to Green Bay.
“The feeling in the locker room after that loss was so tough. I can’t put into words how heartbroken we were,” Hughes said. “That is a motivator for us to learn from it and make sure we don’t feel like that again.”
Though parts of Hughes’ game may still be a work in progress, his selflessness towards his teammates and strive to improve on the court can change that in a hurry.