‘Splash Sister’ Kelly Hughes Makes It Rain

After a preseason scrimmage against Harvard University last week, an SID handed Boston College women’s basketball head coach Erik Johnson the box score. His team had just played a great game, but something was not right. Even though the Eagles scored 77 points and won by 30, there was one thing missing. Next to Kelly Hughes’s name was a zero. This had to be a mistake—his leading scorer did not make a single basket.

“She scored zero points and I didn’t know it,” Johnson said. “No one on the team knew it.”

Most players will let you know they are not having a good game. Most players will have a poor attitude and let out their frustration. Their body language will instantly tell you they are disappointed.

Hughes is not like most players. During the scrimmage, Hughes played 30 minutes, and coming off an injury, it was expected for her to be a little rusty. But Hughes was not even getting the ball. She was struggling to get shots off. When she did shoot, the ball was not going in the hoop. The star player was not shining.

Yet her body language was 100 percent positive. Scrimmage stats, which are not available to the public, were the only indication that Hughes was having an off day. If you were in the crowd, you would have assumed she was having one of her best games.

“She’s out there cheering for her teammates, fist bumping, setting other people up, defending, grabbing rebounds,” Johnson said. “It just happens that she didn’t make any shots. Kelly doesn’t care whether she scores, she just cares that we score.”

Hughes’ humility, faith, and determination on the court are contagious. It’s her attitude that keeps the team going during tough games and allows them to fight confidently. She is the definition of a team player—someone BC desperately needs to build a team dynamic focused on togetherness.

Hughes knows what it means to rebuild. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ripped through her hometown of Point Pleasant, N.J., causing major destruction. Three years later, New Jersey is still in the process of rebuilding due to the countless efforts of restorations teams. The Eagles are trying to do a little restoration of their own.

Last year, strong ACC teams knocked around BC women’s basketball week after week. BC boarded up and prepared to ride out the storm. The team stood mightily during the first half of each game but failed to maintain a strong front while its opponents surged in the second half. In six of BC’s 11 league losses, the team was leading or within 10 points of its opponents at halftime. After going 13-16 overall and 5-11 in league play in 2014-15, the team hopes to improve. With the addition of four new players—two freshmen and two redshirts—combined with a new team culture centered on unity, the Eagles are prepared to rebuild with the resources they have.

The BC team is lucky, however, when it comes to making the repairs it needs. While the Eagles may have a few holes in the defense that need to be patched up and a few more plays to hammer into the offense, they have a strong foundation in Hughes. With her on the Eagles’ side, the team can build itself back up and prove they are stronger than the storm.

The team has all the necessary tools to get the job done: a knowledgeable coaching staff, a motivated team, and plan to remodel. The coaches are prepared to lead the team to success—they just need the team to trust the process. The team has the size and skill it takes to win. With key players leading the way, there is no doubt that BC will be a force to be reckoned with this season, especially with splash sister, Kelly Hughes, on its side.

Hughes was key in the limited success the Eagles had last season, especially against league opponents. Her stellar performance outshined the woes the team suffered. She knows it takes more than one person to have success on the court—it takes an entire team.

In the 2014-15 season, Hughes led the team in field goals, 3-pointers, free throws, and rebounds. She was sixth in the league in 3-pointers made and scored a career high of 424 points. In February against Wake Forest University, she scored a commanding, season-high 32 points, 21 of which were beyond the arc, propelling the team to a 75-74 win. In that game, Wake Forest overcame a 10-point deficit to obtain a six-point lead with less than four minutes in the game. Hughes nailed one final 3-pointer and Nicole Boudreau made a layup and sunk two foul shots to give BC a big win at home. Hughes’ resume is unrivaled on the BC squad, but it is her humble attitude that stands out the most.

She would much rather talk about her team’s success and experiences than her own. You can rattle off all of her accomplishments and statistics, but it will not change her attitude. Her personal achievements are not important to her. It is all about the team, making her perfect for Johnson’s plan.

“The highlight of my career is beating Duke,” Hughes said. “I’d rather have a big team win opposed to any of the individual accolades.”

But ask anyone else and they will not hesitate to tell you how great of a player she is, how important she is to this team.

“She’s an absolute stud,” Johnson said.

Hughes is the type of player who can make heads turn. Her shooting game is the first thing that you notice as she drains shots from 30 feet out. Hughes may be able to make shots from all over the building, but she’s more than just a shooter. She has incredible game sense and passing skills.

But it does not matter how her game is going—Hughes’s biggest concern is the team.

“She is the one who’s asking her coach, ‘How many fouls are there? How many timeouts are left?’” Johnson said.

Johnson needs a selfless superstar who is more concerned about the team than herself. When one player stands out from the rest, it can be difficult to achieve a sense of togetherness. As a selfless superstar, Hughes brings her star performance to the court without outshining her teammates. She does not want the team to rely on her own personal success. She constantly supports her teammates, motivating them to generate their own power. By remaining positive even when she’s struggling during a game, Hughes puts her team’s success above her own. Although Hughes is a standout player, padding her resume with stats is the least of her concerns because stats do not win games.

A standout player cannot prevent a second half slump. A standout player cannot close out six league wins. It did not work last year and Johnson knows that. In order to guarantee this season is not a repeat of the last year’s woes, the Eagles need focus on unity follow Hughes’ example.

Hughes is willing to give it all for her team. She puts her team first and contributes her success on the court to the players standing beside her. Hughes wants her team to have just as much personal success in order to strengthen the team as a whole. To do this Hughes takes on the role of the silent leader.

“I’m not the most vocal person on the team or the most hype person on the team,” she said. “I try to lead by example and by staying composed.”

Stepping onto the court and playing against the country’s best teams can be daunting for young players. Hughes uses her composure and versatility to assist them anywhere on the court. Whether it is taking over the point guard position for a possession or going low to assist the forwards at the post on defense, Hughes will be there.

“That’s been a great gift as a coach to have when your best scorer is also a really good defender,” Johnson said.

Her versatility will allow the Eagles to adopt a new type of game this season.

In 2015-16, the Eagles hope to keep the defense on its toes in order to compete with top ACC teams. With an array of strong guards on the outside and sturdy shooters on the post with a great inside presence, BC is ready to execute an inside-outside game. Combine this with Hughes’ offensive presence, and BC will be ready to contend with any defense.

As an all-purpose player, Hughes is vital for the Eagles if they want to achieve their goals this season. Hughes, of course, has adopted the team goal as her own personal goal. Even with last year’s limited number of team victories, the Eagles are aiming high.

“Our big team goal is to make the NCAA Tournament, especially for our seniors, Nicole and Alexa,” Hughes said. “We really want to have them end their careers on a high note, and that would be with a NCAA Tournament berth.”

Hughes might just be the key player to help the team achieve its goal this season. She knows that the coaching staff’s efforts will not guarantee a NCAA bid, nor will the individual achievements on the court. The team knows it will have to battle day in and day out to reach their expectations.

For Hughes, it’s simple—it’s all about “togetherness, togetherness, togetherness.”

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff

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About Victoria Johnson