Jeremy Pung couldn’t let go.
As he stepped off the bus Friday night, the senior forward still held the district championship trophy he had just helped Fowler win in his hands.
And he wasn’t quite ready to relinquish it to his coach Jason Goerge.
“To see him that elated and that happy and not wanting to give the trophy up because he wants it to be with it all times goes to show what kind of passion (he has) and what he’s looking for out of the season,” Goerge said. “It’s very, very nice as a coach to see someone with that much passion. He’s our only senior on the team that starts, and he’s kind of being that father figure to everybody.”
Pung’s passion has been a key component of what’s been a successful season for Class D No. 10-ranked Fowler, which captured its first district championship since 2013 on Friday. The Lawrence Tech-bound Pung surpassed 1,000 career points with a 27-point outing during the district title-clinching victory over Ashley to add to what has been a strong career.
The 6-foot-7 Pung called it a great accomplishment to join company like East Lansing’s Brandon Johns and good friends like Matt Havey from Lansing Christian and Gabe Meriwether of Bellaire in the 1,000-point club. But helping Fowler (15-7) take another step in the state tournament was even more important.
“That was huge,” said Pung, who is averaging 17.2 points and 8.9 rebounds. “(The district title) was the total goal before the game even started. Someone told me I was 12 points away, but that wasn’t the main goal on my mind going into the game. It was if I get 12 points or not, we need to win the district title. That was the major goal.”
With that goal out of the way, Pung is focused on trying to help Fowler become the latest team from the CMAC to reach the final stages of the state tournament. Rival Fulton has made it to Breslin the last two years, while Laingsburg also recently made a deep run.
“A team goal that I wrote down (before the season) was to play in the Breslin Center,” Pung said. “I remember when I was younger working out with (former Michigan State guard) Travis Walton in the Breslin Center. I remember saying to myself one day I want to play here. “Even if it’s just for one game, it would just be so memorable to just play in the Breslin Center one time.”
Goerge has seen the drive from Pung this season to do his part to help Fowler make that goal a reality.
“Jeremy is playing head and shoulders above what he did last year,” Goerge said. “I think a lot of that is him already committing to Lawrence Tech before the season started.
“Once Jeremy committed to Lawrence Tech, I think it took a lot of pressure off him. This year he’s playing so much more aggressive. The kid is doing everything for us. He’s almost averaging a double-double. He’s a totally different kid this year than he was last year.”
Contact Brian Calloway at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.