The Covington High boys basketball team was 23-0 and was a clear-cut favorite to advance to the TSSAA Class AA state tournament.
Then-Charger junior Tarecus Hughes was savoring arguably the best season as a prep standout, in large part because he was the catalyst of a Covington team that was the No. 2-ranked team in Tennessee at the time.
To his credit, Hughes was the Chargers’ second-leading scorer, averaging better than 18 points per game. He also led the team in steals.
In fact, things were seemingly holding up superbly for this young hoops prodigy who was quickly falling under the radar of an array of college scouts.
Unfortunately for Hughes, a dramatic turn of events transpired just as the Chargers were on the brink of embarking upon the postseason, a development that sent shock waves throughout the Covington community.
TSSAA officials ruled that Hughes was ineligible because he had committed what they labeled a “moving violation.” The ruling came after TSSAA officials learned that Hughes’ mother, Tremelda Williamson, had legal custody of her son and was residing in the Brownsville, Tenn. Area (Haywood County). According to Hughes, he was deemed ineligible after Haywood County schools administrators discovered he was commuting daily about a half an hour from Brownsville to Covington, which is where his father, Chevia Hughes, resides.
Consequently, Covington had to forfeit the 2012-13 regular season just as it was about to play its regular season finale.
For the 18-year-old Hughes, such news was difficult to stomach, given his stock a basketball prospect had risen in his lone season at Covington. In addition, the 6-foot-2 swingman admittedly felt betrayed by Haywood County, his former school, in large part because the sensed his former coach, Haywood’s Kendall Dancy, had informed TSSAA officials of the violations.
Among the Chargers wins during their 23-game undefeated streak was a regular-season sweep of Haywood County, a sequence Chevia Hughes believed prompted the coaching staff to blow the whistle on his son’s transfer to Covington.
“I don’t think they would have made that call (if not for the regular-season sweep),” Chevia Hughes told MemphiSport in a telephone interview from Covington. “But then again, they started calling at the beginning of the season. The calls stopped for a while. And then when (the Chargers) beat them a second time, the called started back. I felt like he (Tarceus) was betrayed by the coach because you’re supposed to be in it to help the kids and not hurt the kids. We had a meeting (with Haywood County Schools officials) and they denied like they didn’t call (the TSSAA).”
Tarceus Hughes said that while he believes his former coach at Haywood was responsible for informing the TSSAA about his transfer to Covington, he never thought what was a memorable junior campaign would eventually go for naught.
According to Tarceus Hughes, members of the Haywood coaching staff had a private investigator to routinely follow him and take photos during his commute to and from Covington.
“It was kind of weird at first because everyone here basically know me and everyone knew I could play ball,” he said. “There was a sense of jealously from the coaching staff. They had sent some picture to the (TSSAA). The athletic director at Covington told my dad.”
Tarceus Hughes has since returned to Haywood County High, but wasn’t welcomed back on the team for his senior season.
“I was going to come back and play, but (Dancy) said he didn’t think it was fair to come back and start,” said Tarceus Hughes, adding that Dancy never admitted to having contacted the TSSAA about his transfer to Covington.
Despite enduring a senior campaign in which he did not play basketball, Tarecus Hughes still believes he made a favorable impression among scouts during a junior season mired by controversy. During his lone season at Covington, he took part individual workouts for Murray State, Tennessee-Martin, and UMass, all of which he plans to make official visits in the coming weeks. UT-Martin appears to be the logical choice, given former Covington head coach Deone Real is an assistant for the Skyhawks.
“I feel good about my about my chances,” Tarecus said. “(Real) said I’ve got a good chance of coming (to UTM) because I did good on my ACT. I mean, I’m ready now to go and play college basketball.”
With the controversy of last year where it belongs: behind him.