Coach Kerry Storbakken said the spotlight wasn’t too big for his offensive quarterback last year, so her game should get that much better as Craig tries to improve on an 11-12 overall record and 9-9 finish in league competition.
“Alison gained confidence from that first game and from there she took off,” Storbakken said. “Even though she was only a sophomore, she became one of our leaders. She showed no fear, and that was great to see. But other teams saw that, too, and they knew right away that she was one thing they had to stop.”
Hughes averaged 10.9 points per game in playing all 24 contests, including 11 double-digit performances.
She said the nerves were there early, but she did her best to calm those demons, and it showed in her play as she gained experience.
“Starting every game was big and I learned a lot,” Hughes said. “I learned how to handle things under pressure. I learned to take that pressure and keep it inside, especially in big games. You have to remain calm, and that’s why it was a lot of fun.”
Hughes said her baptism under fire was valuable because it came against stiff competition.
“Playing against tough teams in the Big Eight means you really have to work at it,” Hughes said. “It got me ready and gave me the experience.”
Storbakken hasn’t changed his modus operandi much in more than two decades of coaching.
And Hughes and this year’s bunch fit that up-tempo style after the Cougars lost some key height through graduation.
“We’re going to be athletic and get up and down the court,” said Storbakken, who led Milton to a 74-58 record and three regional titles before coming to Craig. “We’re on the small side, but we have quickness and we’ll be ferocious and feisty. We want to take teams up and down the court, but like every team we will have to shoot well. I like this group of kids.
“Alison is the leader of all that,” Storbakken added. “She can do the trifecta … she’s a good dribbler and passer and really good shooter.
“She gained so much experience last year, and this year she comes in knowing her role and that we expect her to lead us.”
Hughes is prepared to do whatever is necessary to help the Cougars be a factor in the league chase.
“I need to improve keeping my feet quick on defense because there are so many good point guards in this conference,” said Hughes. “I need to work on boxing out and rebounding. My strengths are shooting, ball handling and passing.
“Softball has helped me learn about chemistry, and in softball, you have to be ready on every play. It gets you into that game zone.”