Basketball has taken Chet Mason across the world and back again. The Cleveland native who starred at Miami University, spent time in the NBA’s D-league with multiple teams and continued a professional career overseas is back home coaching a Lyndhurst (Ohio) Brush team with one of the state’s top talents in 2020.
And what he sees in John Hugley – “Big John,” as he calls him – is a potential for a lengthy career.
“I think John has a lot of basketball ahead of him,” Mason told The Dispatch. “I’ve played at every level: college, the pros, John has a lot of basketball left. I don’t even tell him this because I want him to keep reaching for the sky, but I truly think he has a chance. I’ve been in a hundred mini camps. I’ve been in the summer league. I’ve played in the EuroLeague. John has a chance, but he has to still keep striving for greatness.”
As a junior, Hugley averaged roughly 17 points and 12 rebounds on a Brush team that reached the district title game before falling to Mentor in a four-point defeat. He is a three-star prospect, the No. 4 recruit from Ohio and the No. 152 recruit in the nation according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
The focal point of a triangle offense, Hugley had roughly 80 percent of the offense flow through him last season, Mason said. When single covered, that allowed him to use his 6-8, 220-pound frame to score until opposing defenses started to collapse. That then allowed him to use his passing ability to find the team’s guards – Wright State signee Andre Harris, a first-team all-state player, and Division I recruit D.J. Dial – for easy baskets.
“The first option was him scoring,” Mason said of Hugley. “When teams adjusted and started doubling down, he was such a good passer because he was able to get the ball out to our guards and our drivers and shooters were able to create from that. Our philosophy is to get it in and go to work.”
It was a situation similar to Ohio State center Kaleb Wesson, a back-to-the-basket big man who began expanding his game to the three-point line last season for the Buckeyes. Mason said comparisons between the two are apt.
“John reminds me of Kaleb so much at this age, and now that Kaleb is stepping outside and shooting the three, John is stepping out and shooting the three and it’s like, ‘Wow, they’re very similar,’ ” Mason said. “He’s a Kaleb-type player, and that’s not bad, because Kaleb’s one of the better players in the Big Ten. (John’s) able to shoot the three, able to do one-dribble pull-ups. This year I’m having him push the ball more, bring it up, giving him more ballhandling duties as well as I want him to take the open three or open shot he has.”
College coaches are taking note. Hugley has more than doubled his offers during the last two weeks and has somewhere around 30 from a list that includes the likes of Florida, Pitt, Xavier and Nebraska. Florida State, Missouri, Louisville, Iowa and Purdue are all also involved to a degree.
Mason, who had 20-some offers out of Cleveland South, said he encourages his players to realize that regardless of how many offers they land, they can ultimately pick just one school.
“I think he wants to be comfortable,” Mason said. “He wants to be somewhere he’ll eventually be contributing. I don’t know about the ‘(play) right away’ situation, but he wants to be contributing and having fun. I tell him all the time, college is going to be the best time of your life so you can’t be miserable.”
Ohio State, too, has been involved but has not offered. Mason is closely familiar with assistant coach Ryan Pedon, who was a graduate assistant at Miami during Mason’s playing days.
“I think they’ve been around, but like I said to John, it doesn’t matter who’s there and who’s not, you’ve just got to continue doing what you’re doing,” Mason said. “Pedon coached me, so I know he’s around. He calls to check up on John and coach came to see him a couple times, but John can’t sit around and be like, ‘Why didn’t they offer me?’ Then you lose time you can’t get back that you could’ve been putting into your craft.
“Ohio State has a great thing going, but if John’s not a fit there, he’s not a fit. There’s 300-some more colleges out there, and that’s not saying he’s not a fit for them. I don’t know exactly what they’re thinking or looking for. I know they like him, but I don’t know to what extent because an offer hasn’t been extended.”