Boys Basketball Player of the Year: Pugh led way for Falcons this season
WOODSTOCK — Central’s boys basketball team liked to get up and down the floor this season, trying to run and score in transition. Amid all the chaos, one player was almost always at the controls — point guard Ian Pugh.
The Central junior had the ball in his hands the majority of the time for the Falcons and was certainly a big part of their success.
“In high school I’ve always been a point guard. I like being a leader. Everybody looks up to you. A lot of things rely on you. I like that,” Pugh said. “I like having the expectations. Sometimes I think I perform better with expectations. I like being around the ball. Usually people that have the ball more make more plays. If I have the ball more, I feel like I can help my team out to win.”
There’s no question that Pugh did that this year. He led the Falcons to 15 wins, and he did it through many different aspects of the game.
Pugh led the team in scoring, averaging 13 points per game. He also led the team and the entire area in assists, averaging 4.8 per game.
Pugh, the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015-16 Boys Basketball Player of the Year, said that he loves to score, but he enjoys dishing out the assists just as much.
“I like getting assists. I try to make nice passes, but also your teammates will be happy,” Pugh said. “You give them the ball, they’re scoring, everybody’s happy. I just like making good plays. I just like making the right play.”
Pugh said it also helped that he had a strong group of players around him. Central had five players average at least 9 points per game this season. Many of those players were good shooters, especially from beyond the arc.
Central coach Brandon Shields said he had complete trust in Pugh to run the offense.
“The best thing that Ian did for us was lead us. He was very key for us not just in games but in practice. We told Ian that he’s not allowed to have bad practices, because when he does we don’t have a good practice,” Shields said with a laugh. “It will be the same next year. If he thinks he led this year he’s really going to have to lead next year and I trust him. I don’t take that lightly. I don’t take those responsibilities lightly. I don’t tell kids those things unless I trust them to do them. I really trust Ian as far as doing what we need him to do, doing what the team needs to do, doing what I want him to do.”
Pugh not only did it on offense, but on defense as well. He averaged 2.6 steals per game to lead the Falcons. He also shot 53.2 percent (91-for-171) from the floor, 42.0 percent (21-for-50) from 3-point range and 77.5 percent (69-for-89) from the free-throw line.
It was a strong season for Pugh, who transferred this year from Stonewall Jackson where he played as a freshman and sophomore.
Pugh said he moved in with his dad, which meant that he would attend Central instead of Stonewall Jackson. He said it was tough leaving behind his old school and old teammates.
It also meant that the Stonewall Jackson games this past season had a little more meaning for Pugh. In the first contest on Dec. 8, Pugh erupted for 22 points in the second half to break open a close game, finishing with 26 in the contest.
He said that he wasn’t sure what to expect playing against his old teammates and his friends.
“The Stonewall games were memorable games definitely, because they’re my old school. I thought it was going to be a lot of animosity, but they all talked to me and everything,” Pugh said. “My good friend, Tyler Patton, he plays for them. It was tough because we hung out after that night we played them, and I thought there was going to be animosity maybe because we’re both competitive, but we were still friends after that.”
Pugh said his Central teammates were very welcoming toward him, and it was a smooth transition to his new school.
He also had a big game against some of his other teammates — his Amateur Athletic Union teammates. Pugh plays for Strong Quality Basketball Association Team Energy, which is based out of Madison. Many of his AAU teammates play for Madison County, along with other teams in the Bull Run and Shenandoah District.
Pugh scored 8 of his 16 points in the fourth period to help Central beat Madison County on Jan. 26.
“Beating Madison at home was probably my most favorite thing in the world, because I thought we could beat them,” Pugh said. “Everybody was saying how good they were, and I was like, ‘I think we can play with them’ and we ended up beating them.”
Pugh said that he has always been competitive and that’s one of the things that fuels his success on the court. He said that a friendly rivalry with his older brother Ryan helped him become more competitive even when playing Nerf basketball at home.
“We liked to play Nerf basketball when I was younger,” Pugh said. “We’d shoot and everything and we started playing a game, and my dad basically had to make us quit because we were knocking stuff over. Just playing tough games, and it was just Nerf basketball. He just put the nature of being so competitive on me. You want to win everything. I love winning. Winning’s fun, losing is awful. I hate losing.”
Pugh said one of the biggest improvements he made this past season was simply maturing as a player, and he said Shields helped him a lot with that.
The Falcons advanced to regionals this past season, but will lose six seniors to graduation. That means Pugh will need to be even more of a leader next year.
Shields said that he thinks Pugh will be ready for that challenge.
“We have a pretty good relationship, and I think Ian really embraces trying to be a coach on the floor,” Shields said. “That’s part of his maturing process. I really look for him to even take it to another level next year.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org