Furman University was the first school to show interest in Cartersville Class of 2018 guard Jaylon Pugh when the Cane was an underclassman.
On Wednesday, Furman became the first school to offer Pugh a scholarship.
That loyalty and his relationship with the coaching staff made Pugh’s college decision an easy one, and on Saturday, just three days after receiving the offer, Pugh committed to play basketball for the Paladins.
“[Furman head coach Bob Richey] being my first offer, I just felt like that said a lot, being the first school to believe in me,” Pugh said of his college choice. “I just felt like they had a place in my heart that no other school could have. It’s easy to follow up and offer a kid who has 20 offers, but to be somebody’s first offer says a lot.”
Pugh developed a relationship with Richey when he was an assistant with the Paladins before he became the head coach in April.
For an uncommitted guard entering his senior year, Pugh felt the pressure to get that first scholarship offer every athlete covets.
Pugh had been in contact with Furman for a while, but had yet to get that elusive offer until Wednesday when Richey placed the call.
“I had already had my visit scheduled. And he was saying he didn’t want me to come up on my visit and me feel like it was a tryout. He wanted me to come out to see if it was a place I could call home for the next four years,” Pugh said of the conversation he had with Richey on Wednesday. “I had [been waiting on the offer for awhile]. To be honest, I was lost for words. I didn’t know what to say. I was just grateful.”
The Paladins finished 23-12 last season and 14-4 in the Southern Conference.
In addition to a strong basketball program, Pugh also cited Furman’s academic reputation for piquing his interest, and his visit over the weekend sealed the deal.
“The visit was cool. I loved everything about it,” Pugh said. “I can see myself in the program the next four years.”
While other Cartersville High players have gone on to play Division-I basketball from the junior college level, very few have been offered out of high school.
Representing his city is just another reason Pugh was proud to receive the offer.
“It means a lot to me,” he said of representing Cartersville. “There were times people would tell me, ‘You need to move because you’re not going to go D-I out of Cartersville.’ I just kind of held that on my shoulder and I just worked hard, believed in myself when a lot of people didn’t.”
Pugh still has a year remaining of high school ball, and he would like to continue going further than recent Canes have gone by making a deep state-tournament run.
“That’s the first thing I said [when I got the offer]. I told myself, I feel so relieved, just not having to worry about where I’m going, who’s going to offer me,” Pugh said. “I’m just ready to go into this senior year and try to take the team to a state championship, somewhere we’ve never been.”
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