Boy, could Jay play!
By CHRIS LARICK
The basketball game of Jay McHugh's life couldn't have come at a better time.
With the Class AAA sectional championship on the line, McHugh's Geneva Eagles squared off against West Geauga, led by Terry Teachout, at Euclid High School in 1979.
The Eagles trailed the Wolverines by 16 points with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter. But McHugh, who had been hot in the third quarter when he scored 11 points, started to sizzle. In the fourth quarter he scored 14 points as Geneva pulled even with West Geauga, then four more in the first overtime, which ended with the teams still knotted. The four points he scored in the second overtime (overtimes were just three minutes long at that time) clinched the victory for the Eagles, 90-89.
For the entire game, McHugh, a 6-foot-4 forward-guard, scored 52 points.
Though the Eagles fell in the next game to Eastlake North, the effort brought even more rewards, as McHugh discovered at school not long afterward.
"It was all interesting in various ways," he said. "People around still
remember the 52-point game. It was a special game we all had a big part in."
McHugh, who will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball
Foundation's Hall of Fame on April 2, had had college scholarship offers
from schools like Marshall, Cleveland State and Youngstown State. But Randy
Knowles, a former star at Geneva, then at Texas A&M, had been following
McHugh's career and the 52-point splurge gave Knowles the ammunition
Knowles, as a scout for the Aggies, needed to convince his bosses.
"One day, Coach (Bill) Koval came walking down the hall and said, 'You want
to talk to Randy about A&M?' Shortly after that, I was on a plane down here
(in Texas, where McHugh now lives). I went on the recruiting trip and felt I
connected with the players and liked the coach. I felt comfortable."
McHugh scored 508 points in that senior season, averaging 24.4 points per
contest. That brought him to 1,158 for his career, the fifth-highest total
in county history at the time. Like all of the others before him, McHugh
played before the 3-point arc was instituted at the high school level.
Despite his height, at 165 pounds, McHugh wasn't suited to playing inside
"I had kind of a wiry frame," McHugh told the Star Beacon's Steve Goldman in
1998. "It wasn't suited to underneath play. I tried to stay outside < and
actually, I learned a lot about that from my uncle, Steve McHugh (who had
played basketball at Geneva under Al Bailey and later at Duquesne
"He (Steve McHugh) worked with me a lot and was very influential in growing
up. He worked with me to make sure I faced the basket and worked as a guard
versus just trying to go underneath."
At Geneva, McHugh played with Tim Hassett, Doug Ellis, Bill Schultz and Ed
Clarkson. "Doug and I are very good friends," McHugh said. "I've visited with him
quite a bit. Tim Hassett was about my height, 6-2 or 6-3, and muscular. He
had gotten into weightlifting long before it became popular."
The Eagles went 17-4 that season after going 8-11 and 18-2 the previous two
years, all under Koval, who was a member of the first ACBF's Hall of Fame
class. McHugh also played tennis under legendary coach Arnold Bradshaw and
ran cross country.
"We liked the Princeton look," McHugh said of the Eagles. "Outside of Tim
(Hassett), we were not physically imposing. But we played together and got
along with each other. Everybody understood their roles and played with
their heads. We were a very cohesive unit. We had fun playing the game with
one another and even practicing."
When he arrived at Texas A&M, he played quite a bit early in his freshman
year, including at the Great Alaska Shootout. But that playing time
"I wasn't getting the time that I thought I should have and could have,"
McHugh said. "In hindsight, I didn't work as hard as I needed to. It was
quite an eye-opening experience for a kid from Geneva, Ohio. It was a very
good experience. We were a final eight team my freshman year and lost to
Louisville in overtime. They had players like Darrell Griffith." After his sophomore year at A&M, McHugh transferred back to Ohio, to Youngstown State with the intention of playing for coach Don Rizelli after sitting out the required year. But Rizelli retired and Mike Rice, who had previously led Duquesne, became the new Penguins' coach.
"I started out seeing some playing time," he said. "In the second half of
the season, I started the remainder of the season. I got my legs back into
it. I hadn't had much playing time in two years."
After one season, he transferred back to Texas A&M to get his degree. He
eventually married Dorothy, whom he had met as a freshman at A&M, and
decided to settle down in the area.
He has worked as a specialty chemical salesman for MPSI, a part of Brenntag
Corporation for 16 years and is now accounts manager.
"We sell everything that goes into a bucket of paint except for the
solvents," McHugh said < "The color, the binder, the resin additives and
fillers. We sell to building products companies along with pharmaceuticals
The McHughs live in North Richland Hills, near Fort Worth.
"I've been in Texas longer than I was in Ohio," McHugh said. "The next
thing, you blink, it's 10 or 20 years later and you're still there. I've
grown used to Texas. I've been in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for 20 years.
It's home now. It's where I live, but not where I'm from."
McHugh still plays some basketball. About three times a week, he gets
together with a group of men he knows and plays at lunchtime. He also plays
a little golf.
"I bicycle quite a bit these days on a road bike," he said. "I still play a
little tennis, try to keep myself in shape."