One-on-one with Trevon Hughes

When Trevon Hughes saw the preseason polls that predicted Wisconsin would finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten, the Badgers guard wasn’t surprised.

“It happens every year,” Hughes said. “People always overlook us.”

They won’t anymore.

Wisconsin is 7-2 after Saturday’s victory over Marquette, and Hughes is the main reason. The senior from Queens, N.Y., is averaging a team-high 17.4 points and 32.3 minutes for a squad that owns wins against schools such as Arizona, Maryland and Duke.

In what may have been the best game of his college career, Hughes scored 26 points against the Blue Devils on 9 of 15 shooting. His efforts earned him Big Ten Player of the Week honors while putting Wisconsin back on the national map one year after its roster was decimated by departures. Even a stunning upset loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay hasn’t shaken the senior.

Hughes, who needs just nine points to reach the 1,000-point mark for his career, conducted a phone interview with Yahoo! Sports.

Q: I understand that you left Queens before your eighth grade year to attend St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, Wis., Why?

A: It was a family decision. They wanted to give me an opportunity to have better teachers and to become a leader. I wasn’t surrounding myself with good people. I needed to be around people that liked sports like I did. The people I was hanging around – they didn’t have anything to look forward to. My mom thought I was choosing the wrong crowd.

Photo Trevon Hughes has answered the call to lead the Badgers.
(Andy Manis/AP Photo)

Q: How tough was it to adjust?

A: It was definitely rough leaving the house – and my home state. The first month I was there I wasn’t allowed to contact any family members or anyone. I wasn’t allowed to use the phone. They wanted to force me to get used to it. They wanted me to learn how to interact with people and deal with [adversity] instead of running back home to the family every time something went wrong.

Q: What kind of stuff did you have to do?

A: The wake-up call – the reveille – was at 6 a.m. But that’s also when the actual inspection started, so you actually had to get up about a half-hour earlier to make sure your room was clean and your bed was tidy so you wouldn’t get in trouble. Then, around 6:30, the flags were raised and we marched to breakfast and then to class. It was a routine. It got kind of old, but it definitely taught me how to manage my time.

Q: What are the main traits you developed during your five years in military school?

A: I learned how to be a gentleman. I say “yes sir” and “no ma’am.” And I’m a lot more confident when it comes to talking with people I don’t know. I also learned about different styles of leadership. All the captains and the generals there … I watched them and how people responded to them. I saw what worked and what didn’t, and I used some of that on the court today.

Q: Speaking of basketball, how did you end up becoming a Badger?

A: Madison is only about an hour from Delafield, so I used to always come on unofficial visits to hang out with the guys and stuff. I remember Coach [Bo] Ryan saying it was my destiny to come and play for him. We’re both from the East Coast and we both ended up in Wisconsin. I chuckled at that, but in the back of my mind, I had been thinking the same thing.

Photo Hughes put the Badgers on the national radar by dunking Duke.
(Andy Manis/AP Photo)

Q: Bo Ryan is regarded as one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in college basketball. Why is that?

A: He prepares us so well. He gives us stuff about every opponent, whether it’s information on where he likes to take his shots to what time he wakes up to go to the bathroom each night. He’s got it down to a science. He does everything exactly the same before each game. His main focus, though, is defense. He always says that as long as we play defense, the offense will come.

Q: Last year you made a game-winning shot to beat Florida State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. What do you remember the most about that accomplishment?

A: It just gave me the confidence that I have it in me to come through for the team when we need those kinds of shots. I’ve gotten a lot better since then. During the offseason I had a meeting with Coach Ryan, and he said the main thing I needed to improve on was my shot selection. I definitely think I’ve gotten better in that area.

Q: The Duke Blue Devils probably feel the same way.

A: It was our chance as a team to prove ourselves. I just had a one-track mind to stay calm throughout the entire game. The fans rushed the court and everything. It was good for the whole university, and it was definitely a momentum-builder, a confidence-builder, for our team to beat one of the best teams out there in a national spotlight game.

Q: What other opponents are you looking forward to playing this year?

A: I always like going up against the other Big Ten guards, because there’s a lot of them that are very good. Guys like Kalin Lucas, Manny Harris… there are a lot of good guards in this league.

Q: You’ve obviously proven you’re right there in that mix. What are your goals for your final season?

A: All I know is that this is my last hurrah, and I want to go out with a bang. In previous years, I always knew I had more time, but now it’s starting to sink in that this is it for me. I just want to make the most of it.

Q: Last thing: How did you get the nickname “Pop?”

A: My grandfather gave it to me when I was growing up. He was Puerto Rican and he used to call me “Papi.” It just stuck. In high school, people called me “Pops” and now it’s just “Pop.” They can’t really call me Papi. Even though in Spanish, it means daddy and they don’t want to be calling me that.

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Dec 14, 2009