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Ex-Buc Hugley, goals almost realized, heads for Wake Forest

Joe Avento • Updated May 23, 2020 at 9:30 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Joe Hugley might have been the most successful man on East Tennessee State’s campus this year.

When he arrived to play basketball as a graduate transfer from Central Connecticut State, he had two goals in mind: to get his master’s degree and win a championship.

By the time August rolls around, he’ll be able to check both boxes. Oh yeah, he also has a pretty good job waiting for him as well.

Hugley will join Steve Forbes’ staff at Wake forest as a player relations assistant.

When Hugley got to ETSU, he told Bucs assistant coach Brooks Savage that he was on a business trip. He wasn’t here to go out and party. Hugley wanted to achieve his goals.

“I stuck to my game plan,” he said.

Hugley is one online course away from having his master’s degree in sports management and the 6-foot-7 forward played a key role on the ETSU team that went 30-4, set a school record for wins and won the Southern Conference title.

“I came with a plan,” he said. “Getting my degree was always going to be the first part. Coming in as the winningest team in school history made it all great.”

During the season, Forbes mentioned several times that Hugley was coach material. The parents at Forbes’ summer camp even told him so.

Apparently Forbes was formulating a plan for Hugley’s future.

“We talked about it through the year,” Hugley said. “Forbes sat me down two weeks before the season ended and we talked about it more. We had a lot of agents hitting me up. I told him I didn’t want to get distracted by that stuff.

“I was on the edge of playing overseas, but he saw my passion for coaching. They saw how I interacted with my teammates. Forbes told me they were going to have a spot for me on the staff.”

That deal was meant for ETSU, so when Forbes left for Wake Forest, Hugley wasn’t sure what to expect. He had been in contact with Forbes’ assistants and they reassured him, but until he heard from the top guy, nothing was certain.

Two weeks after Forbes was hired, he called Hugley and extended the offer.

“I’m blessed,” Hugley said. “It’s a different position. He trusts me and believes I can do the job. He took a leap of faith and I’m excited to get started.”

At Wake Forest, Hugley will serve as the go-between for the players and coaching staff. He said he’ll be doing a little bit of everything.

“Whatever they need me to do,” he said. “I want to help establish the culture.”

Even though he’ll be finished with school soon, Hugley doesn’t plan to stop learning.

“I can be a sponge,” he said. “I’m going to learn the business side of the game. I think it’s the perfect position for me.”

Hugley fought through frustration during the season, first because playing time was hard to come by and then when it ended prematurely with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament.

“I got frustrated early in the season,” he said. “But I knew what I was coming into. I was coming into a team that won 25 games and brought the top seven scorers back. As the season wore on, I played my role. I had to be ready whenever they needed me, ready to go when my name was called.

“It was definitely frustrating,” he added. “But it would have been more frustrating if it happened in November. I might not be here in the situation I’m in now. I look where I was 11 months ago. A lot of things have happened in a year that I am proud of.”

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