Niqky Hughes: Strong start for rookie forward
With the first month of the season coming to a close, Longhorns freshman forward Niqky Hughes has quickly proven herself to be a solid player with vast potential.
With the 6-1 versatile Hughes, one finds a combination of feisty defensive play and a willingness to improve every day -- impressing both coaches and fans.
"Niqky is is the type of player who always finds a way to be around the basketball," notes UT assistant coach Kathy Harston. "She is a ferocious rebounder, and anytime you can get the ball and gain extra possessions for the team, that is really going to help."
"She has a lot of energy, she runs the court hard and has done the little things that are really big to the team. Niqky is going to be the type of player who steals a lot of extra possessions for us," Harston concluded.
After leading her Waxahachie High School basketball team to the 2006 Texas Class 4A State Championship in March, the wiry and versatile Street & Smith and Women's Basketball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-American arrived on the Forty Acres with many accolades to her credit.
The biggest impression that she has made on the coaching staff is her rebounding skills. In fact, it is Hughes' natural inclination to always follow the ball's path after a shot that has led the UT coaches to compare Niqky's playing style to that of the great Dennis Rodman.
"Niqky will sacrifice her body to dive after loose balls. She will rebound, she runs the floor well and can defend, which describes Rodman to a 'T'," noted UT assistant coach Travis Mays.
"To me, the comparison is a big compliment, because Rodman was such a feisty player and he got the rebounds," said Hughes in response to the comparison. "He was a hustle player and loved to rebound, which is what I love to do. My aggressiveness helps me go get the ball when I rebound.
"I don't purposely try to model my playing style after him, and really, I never thought of playing like Rodman, but if somebody tells me that I am like that, I start to think back on his game and see how I can make mine is similar to his," noted Hughes.
So far, Hughes, who was ranked as the state's No. 4 top recruit as a senior, has seen action in all six games for the No. 22 ranked Longhorns. She is averaging eight points and four rebounds per game, and has been in double-figure scoring three times while averaging 14.7 minutes per game.
"I want to improve on my dribbling and my shooting. I want to get playing time, with me being a freshman I will have to fight for it, but I know I can get it," Hughes noted.
"Niqky is the type of player who wants to do well right now; her energy, her competitiveness, her heart, and her willingness to win means that you can't keep her on the bench," noted Mays.
Looking back on her childhood, it only seems plausible for Hughes to become a collegiate athlete since she has always been surrounded by athletic greatness. As the second oldest daughter of her farther Vince Hughes, her high school basketball coach, Niqky's older brother is Antwan Kirk-Hughes, a former standout offensive guard for the Texas football team from 1998-2001.
Moreover, Hughes and her younger sister, Destini, were the two catalysts of 32-6 Waxahachie's run to the 2006 state championship and have played basketball together their entire life.
Yet, a burnt orange tradition has yet to be established in the Hughes family.
"Antwan came to UT, but he didn't pressure me at all, so there isn't exactly a Texas tradition going on. I think it is just by mere chance we both ended up playing the UT," said Hughes.
Moreover, Niqky was also a prep teammate of fellow freshman Brittainey Raven, with their history going back to the middle school years. They both started their high school careers at North Crowley HS (before Hughes' dad received a new coaching position). In fact, Niqky used to wear Raven's current number (10) until she had to switch to a larger jersey, and as a result, a different number.
"I used to be number 10 when I was little, but my mom made me trade jerseys with Brittainey when we were playing for Team Texas because the No. 10 jersey was too small," laughed Hughes. "That was my first original number, but since Brittainey was smaller than me at that time, my mom made me give the jersey to her, and No. 23 was the next best number -- which I continue to wear today."
Always one to dream big, Hughes has high aspirations for her athletic playing career, and her academic career.
"After winning the state championship, I realized that I loved the feeling of winning and I want to help bring it here," Hughes said. "Being young, we will make the rookie mistakes, but at the same time, we will try our best, and I know that for a lot of us we want to prove ourselves as a young team. We really are going to try our hardest to bring success to the program, especially since this is Tiffany's (Jackson) last year."
Though she may have a passion for basketball, Niqky ultimately wants to pursue a different career path in the future -- mental health.
"I want to be a pediatric psychiatrist. It has been something I've been wanting to do it since I was 12," she noted. "I am really interested in how the mind works and how people think. Watching the movie 'The Sixth Sense' really spurred me on to be a psychiatrist, and while most people end up wanting to be something different than what they wanted to be at 12, it has stuck with me ever since."
So if she ends up fulfilling her dream of psychiatry, what would Hughes do with all of her education?
"Actually, I want to work in mental hospital, an asylum, and be one of the doctors who assist those patients," added Hughes. "I like action and drama in the workplace, and I think would really love that job."
And while this dream of Niqky might seem out of the ordinary to some, the Texas coaches were not surprised by her big goals.
"Niqky is very smart and very bright, and is doing well in the classroom. I think anything that Niqky Hughes puts her mind to she can do," praised assistant coach Travis Mays.
As the first semester of her collegiate stay comes to a close, Niqky is maximizing her opportunities. The quick impression Niqky has made on coaches and fans is one of persistence and diligence.
It is also an impression that is leading the people around her to expect great things to arise from Niqky Hughes.
"I would say, depending on how diligent she works, Niqky can play a huge part on our team," Mays continued. "She is versatile, she can play against big players because she rebounds so well and is used to being in the paint from her high school days, and she has the length and the foot quickness to play against perimeter players. Being that versatile means that there are a lot available minutes for Niqky if she continues to work as hard as she has from this point on."