Where Are They Now: Don Hughes looks back on Dayton Flyers career

Don Hughes

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Don Hughes

Alter grad was close to Anthony Grant and remains in touch with former teammate

Don Hughes showed up at the press conference in Richmond, Va., when Virginia Commonwealth introduced Anthony Grant as its new head men’s basketball in the spring of 2006.

“Everyone got in line to say congratulations,” Hughes said. “I was the last one in line. I looked at him and said, ‘Congrats, coach.’ Then all of a sudden, he said, ‘Donnie?’”

That unexpected reunion took place 19 years after Hughes and Grant played their final seasons together at the University of Dayton and 11 years before Grant returned to his alma mater as the head coach of the Dayton Flyers.

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Hughes, an Alter High School grad who grew up in Centerville, remains in Richmond, where he has lived since 1993.

“It’s a great town,” Hughes said. “I love it. It’s a lot like Dayton. A good cost of living.”

Hughes has built a career in the food service distribution industry. For 18 years, he worked for the Performance Food Group. Since 2018, he has been the vice president of supplier relations at at Bellissimo Foods Company, one of the nation’s leading Italian and Mediterranean food service providers.

Hughes and his wife Cathy have a son and daughter: Bobby, 21, who attends Christopher Newport University; and Aggie, 19, who attends East Carolina University.

Everyone in the family is a Dayton fan, Hughes said, and they were VCU fans when Grant was there. Grant and Hughes lived across the hall from each other at UD and were roommates for road games in three of their four seasons. When Grant, who’s from Miami, Fla., was stuck in Dayton for the holidays during his college years, he would visit the Hughes’ house in Centerville.

“He’s a first-class individual,” Hughes said.

While Grant came to Dayton from Miami and picked UD over Florida, Holy Cross, Stetson and South Florida, Hughes was recruited by the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Tennessee, Wake Forest and Virginia. They were part of a recruiting class that also included Dan Christie, of Oak Harbor, Ohio, and Sedric Toney, of Wilbur Wright High School in Dayton and Nebraska Western Junior College.

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Hughes, a 6-foot-9 center, was considered one of the best players in that group. He averaged 17.2 points and 8.0 rebounds as a senior at Alter, which finished 20-4 in the 1982-83 season.

“It isn’t very often you get a good big man out of your own backyard,” Dayton coach Don Donoher told the Dayton Daily News in November 1982 when Hughes signed. “There aren’t that many who come out of Dayton and to have one come along and then get him is great.”

At that same time, Alter coach Joe Petrocelli told the newspaper Hughes was the best big man Alter had ever had. Alter finished 21-5 and reached reached the regional final in 1983, Hughes’ senior season, beating Dunbar 46-45 in the semifinals before a sellout crowd (13,455) at UD Arena. Curtis Laravie’s steal and layup with 16 seconds left was the difference. Alter then lost 67-58 to Middletown.

A season later, Grant and Hughes experienced quite a ride in their first season with the Flyers. Both played limited roles off the bench as Dayton reached the Elite Eight in 1984.

While Grant saw his role increase in his final three seasons, Hughes never earned major playing time, but he has no regrets.

“I played more my freshman year than the other years,” Hughes said. “Everyone had a role. Some were motivators. Some were the guys who used to beat on the first team to make sure they were ready to go. Coach did a good job getting everyone in and out, moving guys around. I just had a great time. Freshman year when we got to the Elite Eight was a lot of fun. My big claim to fame was playing against Oklahoma and taking a shot from the corner and not touching the net. Nothing but air. Good game, great times, great memories.”

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