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Kodye Pugh, former Boys' Latin star, 'fell in love with Stanford'

Kodye Pugh drives to the hoop past a pair of Catonsville defenders.
Kodye Pugh drives to the hoop past a pair of Catonsville defenders. (Matt Hazlett / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The past year has been a busy one for Kodye Pugh. Since finishing his junior season at Boys' Latin last spring, the 6-foot-7 forward transferred to Blair Academy in New Jersey, reclassified to 2017, switched back to the class of 2016, committed to Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, dealt with Dawkins' firing one week later, and finally "made a reconfirmation" of his commitment to new Cardinal coach Jerod Haase.

On Wednesday, Pugh will receive some long-awaited relief to this hectic year when he signs his letter of intent to attend Stanford.

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"It's just a lot of weight off my shoulders," said Pugh, who also reported offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Miami, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State, Seton Hall, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech, among others. "I'm blessed to be where I'm at. It's just a great feeling to get this done and be where I'm at."

A Crofton native who started his high school career at Archbishop Spalding, Pugh emerged as a high-major recruit playing for Baltimore Elite on Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League circuit. His stock rose higher after a junior season at Boys' Latin in which he averaged 20.2 points and 10.1 rebounds, leading the Lakers to the MIAA B Conference championship.

After that season, Pugh decided that his long-term development would best be aided by reclassifying and transferring to Blair, an ultra-competitive private school that was coming off a runner-up finish in the New Jersey Prep A playoffs.

"I think [Kodye wanted] the chance to play a national schedule, the chance to live away from home before he went off to college," Blair coach Joe Mantegna said. "I think he was a very big fish in a smallish pond at [Boys'] Latin. We have five Division I players. He probably played more of a role like he'll be asked to play in college. It was really good for his development."

Though he flourished as the go-to guy at Boys' Latin, Pugh transitioned smoothly to his role at Blair as a jack-of-all-trades, one of five players who averaged double figures for the Bucs. Switching from power forward at BL to small forward at Blair, Pugh averaged 14 points and six rebounds, helping Blair to the state semifinals. He also shot 37 percent from 3-point range and "can guard probably three positions," Mantegna said.

Dawkins, among many other high-major college coaches, took note of Pugh's play. A 4.2-GPA student at Blair, Pugh enthusiastically reciprocated that interest and offered Dawkins his commitment on March 7. On March 14, Stanford fired Dawkins.

"My mom actually called me and asked if I heard the news," Pugh recalled. "And I was like, 'What news?' 'Coach Dawkins got fired.' 'Wow, are you serious?' I just couldn't believe the news. I was just like, 'Wow.' I never … that wasn't even in my mind of possibilities. I was definitely shocked when I found out."

Pugh reached out to Dawkins – who has since been hired to coach Central Florida – for advice on what to do.

"He knew that I really fell in love with Stanford, the school itself," Pugh said. "I didn't just commit there for the basketball side of it. I also committed for the academic side of it. It was the best opportunity to set me up for life. That was the main reason I committed to Stanford. Coach Dawkins just suggested that I wait the whole process out and see the next coach, who they'd get."

Pugh, who plans to study either architectural design or engineering, appreciated Dawkins' advice and said the outgoing coach's approach was "a testament to … how great of a guy he is." Pugh followed that plan and stayed committed to the Cardinal as the coaching search continued.

In Haase, who led UAB to a 80-53 record in four seasons, Pugh was introduced to a coach who viewed him in a way "very similar to what Coach Dawkins envisioned for me."

"He liked how versatile I was, long and athletic, and how I have the skill set that I have. He said it's hard to find that nowadays," Pugh said. "He sees me all over the floor, being a big part of the program, being a versatile guy, being able to get up and down the floor, play defense, getting steals and pushing fast breaks. He thinks I can be a big-time player at the next level."

Mantegna couldn't agree more with Haase's assessment.

"I think he's a guy with a higher ceiling than a lot of guys that Stanford can get. I think he's got a super high ceiling," the Blair coach said. "He's what a real student-athlete is. There aren't many players who are really serious about their studies and athletics. He's going to play high-level basketball at one of the best schools in the world."

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Pugh will graduate from Blair on May 26, come back to Maryland for a couple of weeks and then head out to Palo Alto. He's excited to spend the next four years of his life on a "beautiful" campus getting an excellent education and helping the Cardinal become a Pac-12 contender.

"Academics come first, athletics come second," Pugh said. "Coach Dawkins, when he saw me play, he knew I was a Stanford player, just with the way I carried myself. I pride myself on that and being the right fit for Stanford."

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