DC's Pugh headed to UNC Wilmington
As a youngster, Malik Pugh had dreams of one day playing college basketball at the highest level, so much so that in the sixth grade while attending a camp led by DCHS head coach Derek McCord, Pugh made a prediction.
Pugh told McCord that while he was small, he was going to work hard, dedicate himself both in the classroom as well as on the court, and one day he was going to be a Division I player.
On Thursday at DCHS in front of his family, teammates and coaches, a smiling Pugh signed his name on a National Letter of Intent to continue his career at the University of North Carolina--Wilmington, proving that yes, dreams do come true for those dedicated to becoming the best they can be.
"Malik didn't ask me if I thought he could play at the D1 level back then, he told me he was going to do so," said McCord. "He's one of the best kids I've ever coached and he worked hard to get this opportunity really, so it makes me proud for him as well as for our basketball program."
Pugh's road to get to UNC Wilmington was thrown into the air in early March when head coach Buzz Peterson was fired after four seasons with the Seahawks. With Peterson's dismissal came a sense of the unknown for Pugh, wondering if the school would still honor his commitment made in early February.
"I had never been in that situation before and I wasn't sure if they still wanted me, so I didn't know what was going on," said Pugh. Though Pugh may not have know it at the time, the Seahawks quickly hired Louisville assistant Kevin Keatts and the lightning-fast point guard found out soon that yes, he was still wanted.
Pugh's rise is popularity among college recruiters came during the 2012-13 season when the Choctaws advanced to the TSSAA state championship game. While most of the attention leaned toward former teammate and current University of Tennessee freshman Robert Hubbs III, coaches began to take notice of Pugh, the one leading the fast and furious attack up and down the floor.
Pugh continued to work hard in the offseason prior to his senior season, getting up at 4 a.m. to simply go to the court and get shots in, before practice even started. He also was the last one to leave practice at the end of the day, staying later than any other teammate to get work in according to McCord.
"Malik is a classic example of a young man setting lofty goals and proving that dreams do come true," said McCord. "At 6 feet tall, he's proof that you don't have to be 6'8 to play at a high level. He dives after balls and races down court to block shots off the backboard, and when your best player is doing that, you've got yourself a leader."
Entering his senior season as the only returning starter off the state tournament team in 2013, Pugh's role changed from being a facilitator to becoming a scoring threat, a role Pugh accepted and excelled in according to McCord.
"Malik's role changed and we challenged him in the offseason to do more and take 20 shots a game. He not only accepted that role, Malik took it to a whole new level," added McCord. "He's one of the most skilled kids I've ever coached and he can create shot opportunities as well as any kid I've ever coached and he's the total package."
During his final season at DCHS, Pugh averaged 20 points a game while dishing out four assists and grabbing four boards on average. The newest UNC Wilmington signee also reached a major milestone for a high school player, eclipsing the 1000-point mark with a stellar performance in the final game of the season to finish his career with 1,003 total points.
"This is like a dream or a fantasy, and this is the greatest day of my life," said Pugh.
Chances are, the dream is just beginning.