first_imgSyracuse’s senior point guard Frank Howard remembered Hughes showing off an innate shot-blocking ability last season in practice while the East Carolina-transfer was unable to play. In 2016-17, Hughes finished fifth at ECU in total blocks despite missing eight games due to injury. But Howard wasn’t sure if the rim protection against his teammates would translate into games. After all, Howard said, it was only practice.But midway through the season, Hughes’ blocking has shown. Against Miami, Hughes got a piece of Johnson’s jump shot early in the first half. Then, with about a minute until halftime, UM’s 5-foot-7 Chris Lykes sliced through the lane and attempted a scoop shot. Hughes, positioned near the left block, clobbered the ball away from the basket and into the courtside seats on the far side of the court.Hughes’ second block resembled a number of his denials this season: An opponent gets inside or past SU’s center, and Hughes slides inside from his wing spot to block a shot from the side or behind. Howard added that Hughes’ shot-blocking ability can be an added deterrent for guards to head into the lane.“He’s a jumpy guy, always anticipating,” Brissett said earlier this season. “He’s really smart, on the defensive end and the offensive end.”The “craziest” block Howard’s seen out of Hughes was his third and final against the Hurricanes. Hughes went up with Johnson on his dunk attempt and “swatted that,” Howard said.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorHughes’ other multi-block game this season came against Arkansas State on Dec. 22. First, he rotated to the paint after ASU’s point guard drove and sent away 6-foot-8 Salif Boudie’s dunk attempt. Then he did it again, another dunk attempt from Boudie stifled.Howard referenced Hughes’ ability to generate “momentum plays.” Hughes hits 3s, dunks on people and blocks shots. Because of those plays, Hughes has most frequently set the Carrier Dome crowd into frenzies.So when Hughes is defending a break 1-on-1, out in front of Howard, the senior knows he doesn’t need to get in Hughes’ path. He knows Hughes will be the one to make the play.“I might try to slow up a little bit because if I see him running, I know he’s gonna get that,” Howard said. “You’re just trying to find the ball after.” Elijah Hughes thought he was going to get dunked on. Midway through Syracuse’s game against Miami on Jan. 24, Hurricanes’ guard Zach Johnson — who had transferred from Florida Gulf Coast’s “Dunk City”— prepared for a 1-on-1 fast break against Hughes.But Hughes jumped alongside him anyways, meeting Johnson at the rim as he cocked the ball back in his right arm. Hughes’ right hand overpowered Johnson’s and pushed the ball away. There would be no poster: Only a rejection.“I’m thinking so fast, I don’t really know (if I got it),” Hughes said. “… (I’m) just going off instinct trying to get it.”Of the top-32 players in the ACC in block percentage, only one is shorter than the 6-foot-6 Hughes, per Kenpom.com. The redshirt sophomore blocks 2.7 percent of each field goal attempt opponents take while he’s on the floor. Hughes ranks third on Syracuse (14-6, 5-2 Atlantic Coast) in blocks (12) behind Paschal Chukwu and Oshae Brissett, and he picked up a career-high three against Miami. In the nine games Hughes has blocked a shot, the Orange have won all but one.Hughes always aligns in one of the two wing positions along the backline of SU head coach Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. He’s shorter than either of his usual opposite wings, 6-foot-8 Brissett and 6-foot-10 Marek Dolezaj. But Hughes more than makes up for a slight height disadvantage with his athleticism and anticipation.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“He’s got a good spring, and when he gets a running start on people, he can go get it,” Boeheim said after SU’s win over Miami. Published on January 29, 2019 at 11:23 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3 Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img