Turning down an opportunity to play in front of her hometown fans, Marshalltown senior Amanda Hughes will continue her basketball career at St. Louis Community College.
Hughes, a two-year starter for the Bobcats, could have played for Marshalltown Community College but elected to play away from home and hopes to develop her basketball skills from the NJCAA Division II Archers, who went 17-8 overall last season.
"I wanted to get a little away from home but not too far," said Hughes, who also had opportunities to play collegiate basketball at NAIA Lindenwood University as well as another junior college in Tennessee. "I really liked the coaches and they have a good basketball program there."
PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown senior Amanda Hughes signs her National Letter of Intent to play basketball at St. Louis Community College. Also present are her parents Cary and John Hughes (seated) and MHS head girls’ basketball coach Stacy O’Hare (standing).
STLCC coach Shelly Ethridge has guided the Archers to a 76-41 record during her four years at the helm and has won at least 20 games during the past three seasons.
Winning wasn't always easy at Marshalltown - the Bobcats won four games in each of the last three seasons - as the Bobcats played in the toughest Class 4A conference in the state, a league that featured the state champion during Hughes' two years as a starter at MHS.
Hughes was the Bobcats' second leading scorer in each of the past two seasons. She scored 7.7 points and grabbed 2.9 rebounds per game this past year and led the Bobcats with 36 assists.
During her junior year, Hughes averaged nearly six points and pulled down 2.9 rebounds per game, while again dishing out 36 assists. She played sparingly as a sophomore, averaging 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds per contest.
"She brings a lot of qualities to our team," said Ethridge. "She is taller than the average point guard that we see on our schedule, is a threat to drive and she has a good outside shot.
"We plan to utilize her height to our advantage."
Hughes was mainly a point guard for the Bobcats but could move to the off guard position at STLCC. Her ability to shoot the ball from outside and create opportunities to score from the wing may outweigh her ability to run an offense and take defenders off the dribble.
Ethridge said Hughes likely will start out as one of the Archers' shooting guards during her first year in St. Louis but also added that her offense requires both guards to run the offense.
"It's always nice to have multiple point guards on the floor," Ethridge said. "We see Amanda as a scorer from the off guard position next year. But I think she can play the point, too."
Hughes played the off guard spot for her AAU team the All Iowa Attack but takes over at point guard when the starter is off the floor. She is unsure where she fits best but likes to stay as versatile as possible.
Marshalltown High School girls' basketball coach Stacy O'Hare feels like her starting point guard will succeed better playing the two. She also expects Hughes to get immediate minutes for the team next season.
"I am happy for her," said O'Hare, who took over the Bobcats' varsity program last year. "It sounds like they have a good program. I think the junior college route is a good fit, too. She'll get the taste of what college basketball is about and she can step in right away and play."
Playing time was another factor in Hughes' decision. She may have seen quality minutes for MCC but going to a four-year program right away may have required more bench time. Hughes elected to find the court right away and develop into an eventual Division I or Division II athlete at STLCC.
"I hope to play at the next level, either D-II or D-I," said Hughes. "Those coaches are there to help you develop and help you move on after the two years. Sometimes, when you are at a D-I or a D-II you sit the bench for your first two years before you start playing. So if you go JUCO you can be playing the whole time and be ready when you go to a bigger school."
The connection between Hughes and STLCC started when John Hughes, Amanda's father, sent the Archers several game tapes, according to Ethridge.
"We don't sign anyone that we don't think will help us immediately," said Ethridge. "She'll likely be vying for a starting position on our roster."
The Archers went 17-8 last year and finished 2-2 in conference play.
They graduated Kalah Martin and Zuri Hill, who combined to average nearly 26 points and 15 rebounds per game last year. Potential returners include Deborah Holcomb (16 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Abby Hutson (10 ppg, 3.1 rpg).
"I think they want me to play right away, but they need to see me play more," said Hughes of her future team. "I am going early in the summer to play with the squad in some team camps. It will help me learn how to play with my new teammates, and it will help get to know them better, too."