During Elijah Hughes' redshirt year at Syracuse, there were whispers. This transfer, this kid from East Carolina, this under-recruited wing from Beacon, New York — yeah, he might be pretty good.
Hughes proved those rumors right during his two seasons of game action at SU. He shot it from 3-point range as advertised, skied above the rim as advertised, even blocked shots better than advertised. At first glance, his 2020 NBA Draft credentials look great stephen curry jersey kids 5-9 as a proven scorer, shooter and athlete out of the ACC with strong defensive instincts. Then yo NBA Finals Champs Gearu've got the doubts: His age, his transition from Syracuse's 2-3 zone, why his shooting numbers didn't always match his stroke. Put it all together, and you've got a draft-night slee stephen curry jersey 75th per who might fall into the second round but yet again exceed expectations.
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Following Hughes' required season on the sidelines due to NCAA transfer rules in 2017-18, he got a tattoo on his lower left leg. It featured the letters, 'LYYB,' standing for "Last Year Being Broke." The sit-out year was difficult for Hughes, because he'd never had to miss so much of his own team's competitive basketball.
That tattoo stayed with Hughes as he became whole again. It was there when he ended his early warmups for every game with a shot from halfcourt, there when he celebrated big 3-pointers with an air-guitar celebration he first saw Lance Stephenson do, and there when he snagged a courtside fan's popcorn in the middle of a game.
Hughes, who enrolled at ECU in 2016, might be older than most of his 2020 NBA Draft prospect peers, but he also made major leaps in his game from then until now, proving he's not without untapped upside. He wasn't a Syracuse recruit the first time around, despite his relative proximity in New York. He wasn't the first option in his redshirt sophomore season, deferring to returning NBA Polo Shirts guard Tyus Battle. Only unleashed on the ACC as a redshirt junior did Hughes show his full and still growing repertoire.
A 19.0 points per game average from Hughes led the ACC in 2019-20, ahead of Cole Anthony, Jordan Nwora, and Vernon Carey Jr. He also tied for the best blocks per game average of a player his height (6-6) in the conference with Pittsburgh's Justin Champaigne. Hughes played a wing spot in Syracuse's 2-3 zone and frequently leaked over from the weak side to send an unsuspecting shooter's attempt into the front rows of the Carrier Dome.
Even the year prior, Hughes showed his NBA chops. When he scored 26 points in an ACC-opening win at Notre Dame in January 2019, Hughes broke out the air guitar for the first time as he ran back down the court after a 3-p Carmelo Anthony ointer. In an upset at No. 1 Duke a bit more than a week later, Hughes hit a 75-footer to beat the halftime buzzer.
None of this is to say that Hughes is a perfect prospect, but there's been so much time spent discussing how no one in the 2020 draft class is. Hughes didn't show great handles at Syracuse, but he fits the 3-and-D mold that NBA analysts throw around as a desired player type. He outperformed ACC players who will surely go ahead of him in the draft, like Florida State's Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams and UNC's Anthony. Sure, Hughes might be older, but that shouldn't be the narrative for why he isn't better now or can't be better down the line.
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Whichever team drafts Hughes will get a quiet, humble worker. During his redshirt year, Hughes wanted to play basketball so badly that he joined pick-up games with the Syracuse student body. During interviews, Hughes spoke quietly but always with accountability. He let his play, the one-handed dunks and big swats and 3-point barrages followed by an air guitar, make most of the noise.
Former Syracuse walk-on and eventual scholarship player Shaun Belbey recently shared a story on Twitter in which he spoke to an NBA scout who asked Belbey, "Why didn't I hear about Elijah Hughes until February of this year?"
NBA personnel might wind up asking themselves variations of that question more than they'd expect once Hughes hits the court in the league.
Here's more of what you should know about Hughes heading into the 2020 NBA Draft.
Elijah Hughes' 3-point shooting
Hughes was a 37 percent 3-point shooter in his first year at Syracuse, a number that dropped to 34 percent in his redshirt junior season. But the context of Hughes' shots is important to understanding those numbers.
Frequently, Hughes shot from well beyond the arc, more in line with NBA range than college range. Often, shots came late in the shot clock with Syracuse needing a look created in a one-on-one scenario. And still, Hughes often went on hot streaks despite the added degree of difficulty that was compounded by other teams keying on him in his final year with the Orange.
If you want to know the type of natural shooter Hughes is, look at his free-throw shooting: He made 81.3 percent of his foul shots as a redshirt junior. That'll translate when Hughes finds more open looks in a spaced-out NBA game. Hughes also ranked in the 71st percentile on catch-and-shoot threes during the 2019-20 season, according to NBA.c 2020-21 NBA City Jerseys om.
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Elijah Hughes' athleticism
Various pre-draft reports have questioned how athletic Hughes really is. It's certainly harder to tell how he'll translate as a man-to-man defender because of SU's 2-3 zone, but sometimes it's best to just let the highlights do the talking. Watch the way Hughes can soar for a block or a dunk. That above-the-rim athleticism will play in the NBA.
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Elijah Hughes college stats
|Points per game
|Rebounds per game
|Assists per game
|Steals per game
|Blocks per game
|Redshirt at SU
|S Anthony Davis yracuse