During his senior year at Mt. View High School, Jason Hughes was hoping to play football in college. After suffering his fifth concussion late in the season, Hughes was still at the Lobster Bowl — but as a manager, and basketball had become his future sport.

“I had to beg and plead with my doctor to play basketball in college,” Hughes said at the time.

The change in plans — as well as a strong showing against Maranacook big man Ben Johnson with Central Maine Community College coach Dave Gonyea in the stands — led Hughes to CMCC. After sitting and watching for a season, Hughes played more last winter, and has started 21 games this season.

“By no means do I have any regrets,” Hughes said this week. “The team is a second family to me now, and I have a lot of fun here.”

As a freshman, Hughes sat behind Winthrop graduate Tyler Smithgall. He’s now improved to the point where Gonyea calls Hughes “our go-to guy in the middle.” Hughes is averaging over 30 minutes per game for a team that is 15-8 overall and 9-4 in the Yankee Small College Conference.

“I always want the guys to get bigger, stronger, quicker,” Gonyea said. “Once they get a little bigger, stronger, quicker, their confidence level increases and their game changes. He’s one of the ones that’s happened to.”

Hughes, a native of Waldo, has had some big games this season. In a one-point win against NHTI, he had 18 points and nine rebounds. His assist/turnover ratio of 1.8 (32 assists and 18 turnovers) is second-best on the team, and Hughes leads the Mustangs in blocked shots.

In three years at CMCC, Hughes has avoided concussions, if not other injuries. Last year in Thorndike, he was sitting on a motorcycle at a stop sign when a nearby accident led to him being hit by a truck.

“The very day I got back, I had a severe sprain in my ankle the first practice,” Hughes said. “I’ve had torn ligaments in my pinky. The list goes on and on.”

CMCC had won six straight before a loss to NHTI on Jan. 23. Hughes believes the Mustangs can make a strong showing in the conference tournament.

“We always aim high,” he said. “Realistically, we think if we play the best basketball we can, we can make a good run in the tournament, especially where it’s on our home court.”

Hughes, a business major with a focus on sports management, will graduate from CMCC this spring. He’s undecided on his future plans, but would like to get his bachelor’s degree, and possibly extend his basketball career.

“If I go to the right school, I’d love to keep playing basketball,” Hughes said. “I’ve got one more year of eligibility, and I’d really like to use it.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
mdifilippo@centralmaine.com