Buggs plugs away

Drew Buggs (right) got up shots during warmups for Friday's team practice.
Drew Buggs (right) got up shots during warmups for Friday’s team practice.

For a guy less than a year removed from a devastating leg injury, Drew Buggs looks pretty good.

Unfortunately for the Hawaii freshman, “pretty good” isn’t yet good enough to get back on the court for full contact basketball.

The 6-foot-2 guard out of Long Beach Poly High has been an enthusiastic presence at practices so far. He can get in on conditioning and instructional action, but anything that involves potential collisions reduces Buggs to a sideline spectator.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” Buggs said this week. “Just watching from the sideline, you get a different view of everything. You’re able to see the whole floor, at like a slower pace because you’re not out there in the heat of the moment. So it’s been good for me to learn the offense and all the little things that are available within the offense. The little techniques that we go over.”

Buggs resolved not to let his senior year at Long Beach Poly go to waste after suffering a torn right ACL and meniscus and a fractured femur in the third game of the season, a date he knows all too well — Nov. 27, 2015. Amazingly, he battled back to contribute in some late-season games and was a factor in the Jackrabbits making it all the way to the state championship. He averaged 9.8 points that year and earned a host of “most inspirational” and “ironman” awards.

This was Buggs before he got hurt, the first game of the year:

Here’s an interesting read on Buggs playing through the pain.

“Even then, playing, I knew I wasn’t myself,” he said this week. “It’s been almost a year now since I’ve been completely healthy playing the game of basketball. So it’s a humbling experience.”

He said Wednesday he ran 2 1/2 miles before practice in an effort to stay conditioned for when he gets fully cleared — which is nebulous. But he said he feels like he’s improving each day.

“We don’t have a specific date or anything,” Buggs said. “But I am on track, moving along pretty well each day. It’s getting a lot better. I should be back pretty soon hopefully, as long as everything goes well, goes to plan.”

Were he in right now, Buggs would be competing at shooting guard with Larry Lewis Jr., Leland Green and Brian Garrett.

He’s said previously he’s not going to force an early return to the court and that taking a redshirt this year is a possibility.

So, for the time being, UH’s MASH unit — Buggs, senior captain Mike Thomas (wrist) and Darryl Matthews (undisclosed ailment) — has made itself felt at practice by encouraging others.

“It gives me a chance to learn in a different way and just build my fire for when I come back,” Buggs said. “Being out, it drives me to make me want to come back so I can be on the court. When I am on the court, I don’t take it for granted. A lot of people, when you’re playing and you’re out there, you forget what it feels like to not play. So this has been a humbling experience for me, as far as giving me a new experience on the game. And it’s increased my fire.”


Look for a story in Saturday’s print edition on the UH point guard battle between Brocke Stepteau, Matt Owies and Sheriff Drammeh. In different ways, they’re each inexperienced for the job they’re going for, which makes things interesting.