January 27, 2010 11:08:00 AM
Dale Hughes is accustomed to being a leader on the basketball court as a sophomore.
He was put into that role as one of three sophomore starters at New Hope High School.
He''s in that role again as a sophomore at Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Fla.
The 6-foot-2 shooting guard views himself as a leader of a young team that includes five freshmen and three sophomores. There''s just one senior and three juniors.
"I feel like I am one of the older guys on the team," said Hughes, a 2008 graduate of New Hope High School. "A lot of the freshmen are looking up to me and I have to set a good example."
Florida A&M, of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, is experiencing growing pains with its young roster. The Rattlers suffered a 66-53 loss at Hampton on Monday to drop to 4-15 and 2-5 in the league.
Despite the record, Hughes believes the Rattlers can finish this season strong.
"We have a good team," Hughes said. "We''re not down in the conference. We can still make some noise. We really don''t look at the record. We''re just looking at conference play. We''re 2-5 in the conference and if we win the next one we''ll be 3-5. We''re just trying to fight back."
Hughes, who turned 20 Tuesday, is trying to do his part. He has played in 17 games and averages eight points in 19.5 minutes per game.
He has scored in double figures seven times, with a season-high 17 points at San Diego on Jan. 3. He also has had games of 15 points against Howard and Rider, 13 against Albany (Ga.) State, 12 against Florida International, and 10 against Creighton and UAB.
Hughes has started to get back into the flow of the offense after being injured while going in for a layup in a practice after the San Diego game. He heard a pop in his left shin and he bruised his right hip when he fell.
After not playing against North Carolina A&T on Jan. 9 and Norfolk State on Jan. 11 and being held scoreless against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Jan. 16 and Delaware State on Jan. 18, he scored 15 against Howard and nine against Hampton.
"It was very frustrating," Hughes said. "I really didn''t know how to go by it because I really want to be out there on the court. The season hasn''t been going too good and I just felt like I could help. With me being on the bench, I couldn''t do anything but watch.
Hughes played 22 minutes against Howard and made 4 of 11 shots, including 3 of 7 3-pointers, an indication he''s overcome his injury.
"Everything just felt good," Hughes said. "After I got into the flow of the game, everything just felt good."
Things were going good for Hughes before he suffered the injuries. Against San Diego, he played 25 minutes and made 5 of 11 shots, including 4 of 8 3-pointers.
"It was just the same as Howard, everything just felt good," Hughes said. "I was shooting the ball well and I was running the floor. Coach (Eugene Harris) had confidence in my game."
Hughes hopes to have more games like the Howard and San Diego games and help the Rattlers reverse their fortunes.
1. New Hope boys' basketball falls in Class 5A playoffs HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Starkville boys denied return trip to Jackson HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. West Lowndes boys earn third straight trip to Jackson HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS