Liam Hughes really knew Gonzaga University was interested in him when a GU coach stopped in England to watch him play. Since that day, the 7'2" center has brought his game across the pond to Modesto Christian High School, a small 250-student school in north-central California.
Plenty of other college programs have since taken a keen notice of the British big man, including Santa Clara, Oregon State, Gonzaga, Washington, Stanford and California. Needless to say, it was the right decision to come to America.
Born and raised in Essex, England, Liam grew up playing soccer, swimming and rugby. He had a particular fondness for rugby, partly because it is such a physical sport.
Liam Hughes likes getting physical.
When it became obvious that he was destined for a basketball career as he grew closer and closer to 7 feet, he knew a move to America was necessary. Liam has to laugh when he describes the level of coaching and basketball knowledge on England. The coaches are usually the P.E. Teachers and all they know is to line students up and have them do layups.
Hughes started bouncing a basketball at age 11 but didn't really play seriously until a few years later. He was a friend of fellow Brit and Cal commit Richard Midgley, who also came to Modesto Christian, so Liam and his family decided that being an exchange student to America was the best road to his hoops dream of playing high major college basketball.
He gives a lot of credit and appreciation to his parents who supported every decision that he has made throughout his young life.
But Modesto Christian is a small school and now Liam often is assigned to chase 6'1" players around the perimeter, something he is not too keen on. The big guy loves to bang inside, and the more physical it is, the more he likes it. You can hear the excitement level in his voice raise when he talks about battling one-on-one with 6'11" David Padgett at a Cal camp where he held the elite center to single digits. He talks about Shaquille O'Neill and how he makes the NBA's so-called best defenders look silly. But most of all, he just loves Shaq's physical style of play.
His array of shots consists of a right-handed sky-hook, a left-handed sky-hook, a right-handed jump-hook, a left-handed jump-hook and he's working on a turnaround jumper and other inside moves.
Liam is very aware of Gonzaga basketball. He does not have ESPN or Fox Sports in his current home, so he went to a friend's house to watch the Gonzaga-Pepperdine game in San Diego last season. That was a game that saw big men Cory Violette and Zach Gourde work very effectively inside.
Hughes says his GPA is a healthy 3.4 and he's been contemplating a degree in either a biological science or computer science. He plans to set up in-home visits soon, then take official visits to about four campuses before making his decision. Already 265 pounds, Liam is an imposing figure but he admits that a redshirt year would be the best way for him to go, to get stronger, to sharpen his skills and to learn the system.
Liam is a senior this year.