Each season, Gatorade recognizes one student-athlete from each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., who embodies its Player of the Year program’s three pillars: athletic production, academic achievement and exemplary character.
Each week during its Gatorade State Player of the Year selection process, USA TODAY surfaces one candidate who meets those criteria and deserves recognition as a serious Gatorade State Player of the Year contender.
Name: Kelly Hughes
School: Point Pleasant Boro (Point Pleasant, N.J.)
Sport: Girls basketball
Athletic Production: Hughes is one of the best girls’ free throw shooters — ever. An Elks “Hoop Shoot” free throw contest national champion for ages 8-9 in 2004 — and a four-time national finalist overall — Hughes made 53 consecutive foul shots as a junior last season, tying the 10th-best streak in U.S. high school history.
Hughes can do much more than shoot free throws at a career 87.9 percent rate. This season, the 5-foot-11 guard averaged 25.8 points, 10 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 4.6 steals before the Panthers (26-3) fell in the Central Jersey Group II finals.
She has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Boston College.
Academic Achievement: She has maintained an A average.
Exemplary Character: A member of the Key Club and National Honor Society, Hughes has volunteered locally at St. Gregory’s Food Pantry, which provides food and clothing to the needy and homeless. She has also tutored children and participated in a basketball program that pairs players with physically challenged youth.