The only sound that emanated from the Malibu High School gym one early afternoon last week was the dribble of a basketball followed by a swoosh of nylon.
Former Malibu High basketball player and 2018 MHS graduate Jake Hughes worked on his craft all alone. He splashed three-pointers, knocked down foul shots and, to close his 75-minute workout, attempted slam-dunks.
With every dribble and shot made Hughes, a sharp-shooting forward on the Sharks hoops squad the past few seasons, hopes he gets closer to his dream of joining the basketball team at Westmont College in Santa Barbara this fall.
The soon-to-be college freshman said when he is alone with the hoop, either at MHS, Pepperdine’s Firestone Fieldhouse or at home, a myriad of things dribble through his head, but he is at peace.
“It’s a getaway from life, so to speak,” Hughes said. “It’s also fun. Sometimes there is no other place I’d rather be than in the gym listening to music and shooting [a] basketball.”
The 18-year-old is not the only graduate from Malibu’s 2017-18 boys basketball team working on shooting, ball handling and other hoops skills in hopes of snagging a walk-on, nonathletic scholarship spot on the basketball team at the college he will attend this coming school year.
David Hudson wants to join the basketball team at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica. Dylan Hicks is shooting for a spot on the lineup at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. Anthony Chandrasena is working to join the squad at High Point University in North Carolina.
Malibu head coach Richard Harris said he is happy the quartet, all contributors to the Sharks’ successful season, have a shot at playing basketball beyond high school.
“It’s the best thing I can imagine as a coach,” he said. “Them having a chance to play at the next level is quite a compliment for our program.”
The four have played pickup basketball together or trained alone at local gyms and locations outside Malibu since their high school careers closed.
Hughes’ chase to be a member of the Westmont Warriors basketball team began last fall when he participated in a prospect camp at the college with 20 other basketball players. He stayed in contact with Warriors coaches throughout his high school season. In April, when Hughes decided he would attend Westmont as a student, his father met with one of the basketball coaches, who said the younger Hughes had a chance to walk onto the basketball team this upcoming season.
As a result, Hughes’ summer plans include a lot of basketball and weight training.
“[My plan is to] get better, but also bigger, faster and stronger,” he said. “It’s a little nerve racking because I don’t for sure have a spot, so I can’t take this summer off. I have to keep working for it.”
Hicks is spending time practicing with the team at Pierce College, and Chandrasena has already moved to North Carolina. Harris said a member of High Point’s coaching staff told him they are excited to have the former Malibu point guard try out for the team.
Hudson’s pursuit of a spot on the Santa Monica College basketball team’s roster led him to enroll in a basketball class at the college this summer. The Monday-to-Thursday sessions feature Hudson and other players either on the SMC team or looking to get placed on the squad playing ball for at least two hours each evening.
Hudson said the basketball class, basically a four-day-a-week tryout for the SMC squad, has been going well but is a challenge.
“The reality is I’m still 17, but I have been going against grown men, some guys there [are] 24,” he said. “I have to get stronger and better to compete in college. It’s nice playing against actual college players, though.”
Hudson said his jump shot has improved since Malibu’s season ended. He wants to tighten has ball handling skills and become better at making layups over tall and athletic opponents.
The guard said he loves basketball and doesn’t want to pick up his dribble anytime soon.
“I used to think if I don’t go pro there is no point in playing, but later on when I got older I thought even if I don’t make it that far, I always want to be able to play,” Hudson said. “Taking it to the next level would be a big accomplishment for me.”
Hudson said Hicks, Hughes and Chandrasena have all been working hard to be better players.
“We always encourage each other when we see each other at the gym,” he said. “We help each other improve.”
Harris said he told Chandrasena to focus on being a point guard to minimize mistakes and told Hughes, the owner of the most threes made in Sharks hoops history, to exploit his positives on the floor—being a great shooter. The coach directed Hudson to be an aggressive rebounder because he is talented at corralling missed shots.
Hughes said he and his former teammates are driven to excel on the court.
“We all want to play next year,” he said. “We hold each other to high standards. It’s fun to know we are chasing after the same thing.”