Sophomore John Hughes pacing young Springdale core

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Tuesday, February 1, 2022 | 9:16 AM


There’s a bit of an interesting bond forming at Springdale between the team’s new head coach and its top player.

The common denominator: both are relatively new faces within the program.

Kobi Phillippi took over as boys basketball coach at Springdale late in the summer after serving as an assistant at West Allegheny.

He walked into a program that had success a year ago, finishing 12-8 before forfeiting a first-round playoff game to Winchester-Thurston because of covid-19 concerns.

So it wasn’t like Phillippi had to change everything all at once.

“We’re just trying to build more of a ‘we not me’ mentality and more of a team approach to everything we do,” he said, adding that players were very receptive to both him and any tweaks he made to the strategy.

No one has exemplified that mindset more than sophomore John Hughes.

Through 14 games, Hughes is averaging more than 16 points.

“My main thing is winning. I love winning,” said the 5-foot-11 shooting guard. “As long as we win, it helps my focus. All of the work that I’ve put in off the court, it just makes me happy that it’s paying off.”

The start to the season was bumpy for Hughes and his teammates. The Dynamos began 1-7, playing a strong nonsection schedule.

“Early on, we did face some challenges with a tough schedule, some very tough opponents,” Phillippi said. “Not like our (section) opponents now aren’t tough, but we played up to try to get that experience.

“We battled some covid issues, some injuries and now we’re getting the ball rolling in section.”

Springdale had some of those absences and injuries ease up, and responded with a 4-2 run, starting the season 3-2 in Section 1-2A.

“All of the (games against) better teams we’ve played shows that we can compete at a higher level than we were,” Hughes said. “These better teams, we’re staying with them and hanging with them.”

Hughes has led the way thanks to a dedicated summer.

“He put in hard work in the offseason,“ Phillippi said. “I didn’t get in the gym until September, but he was one of the first ones in the gym. He’s one of the first ones here every day and one of the hardest workers we have.”

“Last year, I was more of a role player, a spot up shooter,” Hughes added. “I got put in when they needed a 3-pointer. It’s just changed a lot. I had to work on my dribbling, my defense, pull-up jumpers and shooting.”

Phillippi wasn’t overly familiar with Hughes’ game, but has loved watching his development.

“He’s getting more and more confident each game,” he said. “He got some varsity minutes each game (last year), but wasn’t a starter and wasn’t counted on like he is now. He’s getting better and better at every practice and every day.”

Hughes is a part — albeit a big one — of a talented sophomore group that includes Billy Lawrence, Mason Gent, Chase Weihrauch and Jackson Pribanic.

“This sophomore class, they were the first people I met at the school,” said Hughes, who transferred from St. Joseph’s Middle School in Verona into Springdale’s district before his freshman year.

“I met everyone through basketball. I knew no one and I didn’t talk when I came here. (Basketball) was my way out, to meet people. It was nice to have a good group of people to meet as soon as I came to the school.”

Also a talented baseball player, Hughes and his teammates have big goals, including a rematch of a 87-37 loss to defending state champion and section foe OLSH on Jan. 11.

“It just jelled us together,” Hughes said. “Even through losses, it helps us, it grows us. I think we can beat them on our home court. That’s our goal.”

After that? Well, Hughes has plans in sight for this season and beyond.

“We want to make the playoffs, go far in the playoffs and maybe make the WPIAL (championship game),” he said. “These upcoming years are going to be very good for Springdale.”

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