UM woes confuse Hughes

UM woes confuse Hughes

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – There is nothing Brandun Hughes doesn't like about his old self.

"I don't think anyone can compare to me," the pride of Peoria said Tuesday. "Not when I'm out there playing Brandun Hughes type of ball."

When he signed with Michigan last fall, Hughes asked for Chris Webber's No. 4, which tells you a little something about the guy's confidence.

And as for those reports he was the nation's top junior college point guard prospect last year while in Barton County, Kan.? Hughes is happy to report that they're all true.

"What's the word? ... Incomparable. I'm pretty incomparable," said the former Peoria Manual star. So what's he doing coming off the bench for the 16th-ranked, 10-3, stumbling Wolverines, who many believe are a steady point guard away from greatness?

Good question, says Hughes, who was expecting to star – or at least start – not to give Travis Conlan a breather.

"Things haven't worked out," Hughes said. "I've lost a lot of confidence in myself this year. (Not starting) probably has a lot to do with it. This is the first time I've had to come off the bench ever, going back to when I was at Manual playing with Jerry Hester.

"I've had to swallow my pride, and that's been tough to do."

Hailed in the media guide as Michigan's first "impact junior college recruit" since Rickey Green in the mid-1970s, Hughes hasn't had much of an impact at all.

He's third on the backcourt in minutes (29 a game), sixth on the team in scoring (8.9) and last among regulars in field goal percentage (36.1). He's near the top in all the wrong categories, ranking No. 1 in fouling out (twice) and second in turnovers (35).

"I haven't played like Brandun Hughes can play," he said. "At no time this season have I done that. It's kind of taken me awhile to get into the flow of the game. I'm not used to having to do that."

The 6-foot Hughes picked Michigan over Illinois last September in part because the Illini already had their point guard, Kiwane Garris.

All the Wolverines had was the unheralded Conlan – and a tall, talented supporting cast. Hughes envisioned a fun season of lobbing alley-oops to Robert Traylor and Maurice Taylor and Maceo Baston.

He thought the keys to the Ferrari were his the day he signed his name on the dotted line.

"That's the way everyone had it puzzled together," he said. "That's why I came to Michigan."

Thursday's 6:30 p.m. Illinois-Michigan game, which Hughes once circled in red on the schedule card, has lost some of its luster. He still looks forward to the Wolverines' March 2 visit to the Assembly Hall, site of Manual's 1994 Class AA state championship, but this one's no biggie.

He's not playing well, and Illinois' Hester won't play at all. Hester, a teammate of Hughes' going back to their elementary school days, is out at least another three weeks with a back injury.

"Maybe if Jerry was out there it'd be bigger," Hughes said. "Since he's not, that kind of puts out my fire."

Hughes was almost a UI teammate of Hester's. Had another Peoria pal, Willie Coleman, not left Illinois' summer bridge program in 1995, Hughes says he probably would be making the trip to Michigan today.

"I probably would have been there if Willie was," Hughes said. "Him not being there made my decision a little easier."

Not that Hughes harbors any ill will toward Illinois. He was happy to hear the news in November about Manual seniors Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin choosing the Illini. If Hester serves a medical redshirt and returns next season, Hughes offers a warning to the rest of the Big Ten:

Look out.

"They will make Illinois a power again, I know they will," Hughes said. "Serg and Marcus are winners. They're a ton, both of them. If Jerry comes back with those boys, they're going to be really good."