Coaches are paid to dissect film, develop game plans, find the right combinations, and implement defenses. Despite all the hours of work, no coach in the county has figured out a way to stop Pasco High star Jackie Pugh. No coach has found a player to perform the task of shutting down the area's best player.
Leave it to Zephyrhills coach Ernie Pittman, the county's dean of coaches as he enters his 15th year, to find the answer to the question: Who can stop Jackie Pugh?
"The only one that can stop Jackie is Jackie."
Okay, so it's not the best answer for frazzled coaches. But it's the best we can come up with.
Pugh, rated the state's No. 2 girls basketball recruit behind Pensacola's 6-foot-4 center Donnette Snow, will tip off her final season Nov. 11 when the Pirates visit Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa. After that, it's back to terrorizing county opponents, who have beaten Pasco all of zero times since Pugh slipped on a Pirates varsity uniform in 1993.
A starter since her freshman year, Pugh is Pasco's all-time leading scorer, rebounder, playmaker, shooter, defender and star-in-the-making. She is weighing a host of scholarship offers from schools like Auburn, Alabama and Clemson, and weighing heavily on the mind of opposing players and coaches.
If anyone is to end the Pirates' 42-game Sunshine Athletic Conference winning streak, they will have to figure out a way to slow Pugh.
"You are not going to stop her, " said Hudson coach Doreen Grote. "You have to let her get her points and hopefully slow her down a little bit. You have to try and keep the ball out of her hands. But she is strong and quick and patient. She doesn't make many mistakes."
If you keep Pugh away from the hoop, she will slice you up with her dribble and passing game. Unselfish to a fault, Pugh is willing to dish rather than drive if the defense dictates such action.
"I've rarely seen her give up the opportunity to get an assist rather than score herself," Pittman said. "She knows she's going to get her points."
But let her grab a rebound and head up court, and you are in trouble.
"When she pulls the ball down and goes coast-to-coast, she can take over a game," said Land O'Lakes coach Jerry Stacy. "You are not going to stop her from scoring points, but you can't let her dominate."
Last year, the 6-1 Pugh guided the Pirates within a game of the final four, averaging 22.6 points and 11.7 rebounds a game. She is hoping for a repeat to cap off her illustrious career, and the Pirates might just have the size to send her out a winner.
Every coach polled in the county used these words in describing Pugh: Total Package. She is big, she is quick, she can dribble, she can take over outside or inside. "And she's ambidextrous," said coach John Edwards.
Total package indeed. But Stacy and the other coaches say that description doesn't just fit on the hardwood.
"When I say that, I don't mean just as a basketball player," Stacy said. "Total package to me is good character, which Jackie has. Those who have had her in the classroom have nothing but good things to say about her. She is an honor roll student. She has a high GPA. She is a class kid."
All the attention, Pittman said, has had little effect on the quiet and demure Pugh.
"I don't think I've ever seen anybody with as much attention as she's gotten," he said, "and she seems to have handled it awfully well."
Pittman then chuckled.
"But gosh, I'm awful glad she's going to graduate."
FOR THE FANS
ADMISSION: Most schools charge $3 to $4 for regular-season games, $4 for district tournaments, $5 for regional tournaments, and $6 for the state tourney.
TIPOFF CLASSICS: Exhibition tournaments over the past week do not count toward regular-season records.
REGULAR SEASON: Schools may begin Tuesday and play a maximum of 28 games, including regular-season tournaments.
PLAYOFFS: The district champion and runner-up advance to the state playoffs. The state final four will be Feb. 18-21 at the Lakeland Center.
CLASSIFICATIONS: Schools are divided by enrollment into six classifications ranging from the largest schools in Class 6A to the smallest in Class A. Schools were reclassified during the off-season, changing district alignments.
WHAT'S NEW: After experimenting with running the girls state tourney concurrent with the boys, the FHSAA has moved the girls season two weeks earlier. State tourney organizers are planning a Fan Jam with interactive entertainment for fans.