Be it in the classroom or on the court, Kristen Hughes means business.
As a Commerce student who also stars as the starting point guard for the UBC women’s basketball team, Hughes knows that hard work is crucial to success. And in her case, the effort is paying off right now.
Hughes is in her first year of playing with the Thunderbirds after transferring from the University of Victoria two years ago and red-shirting last season. However, despite the change of scenery and a new position, she has found it to be a very smooth transition.
“I was lucky enough that I knew a lot of the Vancouver girls coming into this. Playing against them, I got to know them even better, and they’ve made it very easy for me,” said Hughes.
As a graduate of Handsworth Secondary School in North Vancouver, Hughes grew up playing with and against several of her current Thunderbird teammates. Now reunited back at UBC, the team is putting up impressive results.
The T-Birds are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation and have secured a playoff berth with a 14-3 regular season record. Hughes has been an integral part of this success, with head coach Deb Huband calling her the team’s “floor general,” a role that Hughes did not expect when she first came to UBC.
“[The leadership role] took a bit of getting used to. But I’m always still learning, and I’m glad that [Huband] sees me in that role because I’ve been trying to get more of a leadership and communicative role on the team,” said Hughes, who is second on the team in minutes played per game.
On the offensive side of the ball, Hughes has been a deadly threat from beyond the arc for the ‘Birds. The point guard has made the most three-pointers on the team this season with 33 in 17 games, showing a confidence in her shooting that has grown over her university career.
“My last year at Victoria was when I really started shooting the ball well. So that gave me more confidence with shooting the ball, and Deb has given me the okay to shoot the ball whenever I feel like it. I worked really hard to get that.”
The hard work Hughes has put in on the court is clearly evident in her stats and the team’s record this year, but the work she puts in outside the game has also provided results. In the offseason, the Commerce student will start an internship with the Vancouver business firm KPMG. After that, she hopes to get her chartered accountant designation.
Hughes cites former T-Bird standout and North Vancouver product Erica McGuinness as a significant influence on her career path. McGuinness holds the record for most career points scored in UBC women’s basketball history and was also a graduate of the Sauder School of Business.
“I know that doing Commerce and basketball together is a huge load to deal with, so seeing that she has been able to do it has helped me a lot,” she said.
Business has always been an interest for Hughes, and after she finishes school she hopes to follow that passion.
“I’m hoping to take my business degree and maybe use it in the fashion industry later on. Or if I could do something in the financial side of sports and be able to combine both of those, I would be the happiest.”
As of right now, Hughes’s focus is on the remainder of the basketball season. There are only two games left in the regular season before the playoff starts, and these dates have been circled on her calendar for quite some time now. UBC’s final series is against UVic, and for the first time Hughes will be playing against her former teammates.
But for two 40-minute games, the friendships she has with her opponents will be set aside as the ‘Birds fight for two important wins.
“I love those girls, they were like a family to me over there. It’ll be good, they were understanding of my reasons to come back here. I do really want to beat them, but it will just be like playing with friends out there.”
Last season, the T-Birds suffered a first round playoff loss to the University of Alberta, and with the playoffs looming, Hughes believes the team can avoid that result this year.
“We have the potential to do so well, so we’re just trying to keep going as the playoffs come closer.”
With Hughes’s shooting prowess and leadership, UBC may have found the missing puzzle piece in their bid for playoff success.