Playing in Muddy River Showcase is full-circle moment for Hannibal’s Pugh and her father

Pugh

The growth of Hannibal's Baylee Pugh as a basketball player has been influenced by her father, former Pirates coach Matt Pugh. | Shane Hulsey photo

QUINCY — Matt Pugh recalled the conversation he had with his daughter, Baylee, when they learned she had been selected to play in this Saturday’s third annual Muddy River Showcase.

“She told me, ‘Dad, I don’t know if I’m good enough to be playing in this game. I don’t ever score,’” Matt Pugh said. 

His response?  

“I said, ‘Hey, there are other areas to the game other than just getting buckets. I think it’s really cool that you’re being recognized for some of the things that you can bring to the table that not everybody else gets recognized for. It makes your experience unique,'” he recalled.

Even though Baylee may have second guessed her selection, she understood its significance.

“It’s a really big deal,” she said.

Matt Pugh knows how significant it is to participate in an Illinois vs. Missouri basketball all-star game in Quincy. He coached in the McDonald’s/Herald Whig Classic twice — as an assistant in 2003 when he was on Andy Anderson’s staff at Canton and as the head coach for the Missouri boys team in 2012 during his stint as Hannibal’s head coach.

“The thing I’m trying to appreciate and understand is how it’s coming full circle,” he said. “I view myself as really fortunate to be able to experience this. It’s a nice reminder that the game has been really good to me.”

Matt Pugh also coached for three seasons at John Wood Community College — the site of the Muddy River Showcase — under now Quincy University men’s basketball coach Brad Hoyt. Included in those three seasons was the Trail Blazers’ second-place finish in the NJCAA Division II national tournament in 2015.

“Baylee always goes in there and points out the national runner-up banner and says, ‘Hey, my dad’s name is on there!’” Matt Pugh said. “It’s always cool to go in that gym and see that.”

He got his daughter started on her basketball journey at 5 years old.

“I’ve trained with him forever,” Baylee Pugh said. “He always pushes me to my potential and knows what I can do.”

But she had the choice to stay on that path.

“I didn’t want to be the dad that took what I did as a kid growing up and my passion and forced it onto her,” Matt Pugh said. “Whatever she was going to be passionate about and decide to end up doing, I always wanted that to be her choice.”

Baylee turned that passion into a high school basketball career in which she helped Hannibal go from five wins combined her first two seasons to 34 victories over last two.

“It is so encouraging to see that,” she said. “Our big thing is being a family and having each other’s back no matter what. I think that was the main thing that really flipped it around. The girls are all passionate about it now, too.”

Don’t let what she accomplished on the basketball court overshadow her exploits on the golf course. Baylee was part of the Hannibal girls golf team that finished fifth at the Class 3 state championships in 2023.

“It was a really cool experience,” Baylee Pugh said. “It felt really competitive, but it just felt good being there and representing my team.”

Matt coached that team, fitting considering how close he and Baylee have grown through golf.

“(Golf) was an activity that we did when she was growing up,” Matt Pugh said “I’d take her to the golf course with me, not always, but I’d say, ‘Hey, I’m going to go play. Do you want to come?’ It wasn’t something that I was super knowledgeable about or had an extreme passion for. It was kind of just a hobby, and I think that helped that relationship in terms of being golf coach for her. It was never overly intense.”

Baylee was never as serious about golf as she basketball, but that was part of the game’s charm.

“It was always something fun to do on the weekend,” she said. “Then I tried out for the team and I wasn’t half bad at it. Then it turned out to be pretty fun. It was more my fun sport that I just enjoyed.”

While Matt was Baylee’s golf coach, he never actually coached any of her basketball teams. He’s glad he kept it that way.

“I know most parents would relish that opportunity to coach their kid, and I’m sure that’s a super special experience, but one thing that I’ll always remember is having the opportunity to just be Dad and not be Coach,” Matt Pugh said. “I think that’s really developed our bond as father and daughter, and her knowing I’m not there to critique you. I’m not there to tell you what you did wrong and what you need to improve on and have this laundry list of things we need to talk about on the ride home.”

But they will have plenty to talk about on the ride home Saturday night after his daughter plays her final basketball game.

Tickets for the Muddy River Showcase are $10
with all seats general admission and all sales at the door.

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