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Florida a "dream" opportunity for Perkiomen's Thomas Haugh

07/05/2022, 12:45am EDT
By Sean McBryan

Sean McBryan (@SeanMcBryan)

Thomas Haugh had one offer from Mount St. Mary’s after his sophomore season at New Oxford.

A lot has changed since then.

The 6-foot-9, soon-to-be post-grad at the Perkiomen School committed to Florida on Wednesday, his dream school and one of the top college basketball programs in the nation.

Perkiomen School forward Thomas Haugh (above) committed to Florida last week. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“Growing up, Florida was my dream school,” Haugh said. “It’s a pretty cool feeling.” 

Multiple other low-major offers fluttered in after his junior season, but Haugh’s dream was to play high-major ball, and that started to come to fruition during his senior year. 

Maryland offered in April, then Northwestern, Rhode Island, VCU, Towson, Richmond, Illinois, Chattanooga, Seton Hall, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Davidson shortly after.

Tours to Maryland, Richmond, and Northwestern happened in the summer.

Then, Haugh scored 33 points during a live period high school summer league event at Blair Academy in New Jersey. Florida brass was in the stands and wanted him to come visit.

He toured the Gainesville campus from June 26 to June 28. 

“I kind of went into that visit not wanting to think of it as my dream school,” said Haugh, who grew up a big fan of Tim Tebow and the rest of the Gators. “I didn’t want to be biased. I wanted to feel it out and compare it to the other schools that offered me.”

He mentioned he didn’t make a “top schools” list and gave every school that offered him fair consideration. Florida just could not be denied.

Haugh worked out with the team, loved the way they played, loved newly-hired head coach Todd Golden’s style of coaching, and decided with his family that’s where he wanted to be.

Haugh committed June 29.

The journey began in Adams County’s New Oxford, sitting about 10 miles east of Gettysburg, where Haugh was a three-sport athlete taking after his father, mother, and grandfather in their respective sports playing football and volleyball along with basketball.

His mother, a middle hitter in volleyball, and father, a middle linebacker in football, both played collegiate sports at Shippensburg. His grandfather, Mike Fuhrman, played college football at Memphis State (now University of Memphis) and played in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts.

Haugh was bound to be athletic, but where did the height come from? His parents aren’t short by any means with his mom standing at 6-0 and dad at 6-1. Fuhrman was 6-6.

“I think that’s where I got my height from,” Haugh said.

Haugh (above, in Feb. 2022) transferred to Perkiomen from his hometown school in New Oxford (Pa.). (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Still, basketball wasn’t front and center as the still-growing Haugh divided his attention between the three sports in middle school and as an underclassman in high school.

“To be honest growing up I didn’t really fall in love with the game of basketball yet,” Haugh said. “It was football for me. Then I started growing and was super tall at like 6-6, 6-7 my freshman or sophomore year. I was like uh oh, I’m going to have to take the route of basketball.”

But there were signs basketball success was in Haugh’s future.

“I was always outside, shooting,” he said. “My mom would always get annoyed because her room was right by the court. They got me an outside light and I would be out there until 12, 1 o’clock just dribbling the ball and shooting. That’s how I fell in love with the game.”

Former New Oxford basketball head coach Sean Bair, now an assistant coach for Monmouth University women’s basketball, took notice of Haugh when he was in the 7th and 8th grades and invited him up to varsity summer practices.

“That helped me a lot to propel my game to play against guys that were four and five years older than me,” Haugh said. “It gave me confidence and showed me I could do this.”

After playing junior varsity his freshman season, Haugh received significant minutes on a good New Oxford team in his sophomore year under new head coach Nate Myers.

“Being able to play varsity for coach Myers my sophomore year and him letting me go out there and do my thing gave me a lot of confidence,” Haugh said. “It helped my shot and everything else grow in practice. Also when coach Bair was there, he helped me a lot in growing and developing skillswise.”

The Colonials went 26-5 and reached the PIAA quarterfinals that season before COVID canceled it; Haugh averaged about 8 points, 7 rebounds, a block and a steal per game.

The uncertainty surrounding the next PIAA season due to the pandemic, the offer from Mount St. Mary’s, and the difficulty of getting exposure at a York-Adams League high school all played a factor in Haugh’s next decision, which ironically may have been more difficult than his collegiate decision.

A player can stay in the York-Adams League and get noticed on a high-major school’s radar like Spring Grove’s Eli Brooks did on his way to a five-year career at Michigan. But it’s rare and some players, such as former Gettysburg/Life Center Academy and Syracuse freshman Quadir Copeland, take the route of transferring to another school for more exposure.

“You can stay in a league like the York-Adams league, like Eli Brooks did at Spring Grove and still get looked at,” Haugh said. “You have to get absolute buckets in this league or be on a really good AAU team because getting that exposure is key.”

Haugh played on good AAU teams for Philly Pride, and now plays for WeR1, both on the Under Armour circuit, and decided to transfer to the Perkiomen School to take that exposure even further after his sophomore season.

Haugh (above, left) is an impressive athlete in the frontcourt who rebounds, blocks shots and finishes at a high rate. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

He’d be leaving volleyball and football in New Oxford as well, shifting his focus solely to basketball. He didn’t have to worry about whether the season would be canceled due to COVID or not; he’d be able to work out regardless at the Perkiomen School’s facilities.

“It was a little nerve-racking at first,” Haugh said on the roughly two-and-a-half hour move to Pennsburg. “I’m going to a different school. My family and friends aren’t there. But after the first couple months it was awesome. It felt like home again. I always missed New Oxford, but at Perkiomen they took me in and I started playing pretty good basketball there, started grinding with everybody.”

Perkiomen School basketball head coach Tom Baudinet heard rumblings from an evaluator about the prospect out in Adams County and saw the potential immediately. 

“He was a long, athletic, competitive kid,” Baudinet said. “Those are some of the things everybody sees in him now, it was just a little prior to his development basketball-wise. Back then he was still a three-sport kid playing football, basketball, and volleyball. He wasn’t super skilled yet but you could see his athletic ability.”

Haugh didn’t play a ton as a junior, his first as a Panther. Two other, older Division I prospects took up most of the playing time: Philip Byriel (Princeton) and Mitch Fischer (Navy). Haugh averaged 4.5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 0.5 steals. He didn’t hit a single 3-pointer.

He was still developing and getting accustomed to the change. Baudinet and college coaches continued to see the potential. He started receiving more offers that summer from Albany, Lehigh, Lafayette, and Army in June. Siena, Fairfield, Marist, Boston U, Holy Cross, and Quinnipiac followed in July; Vermont offered in August.

“I was very happy with those offers,” Haugh said. “My family and I were blessed to even have offers to begin with. I know a ton of kids would love to be in my situation. I kind of sat back with my family and made a plan with coach Baudinet. We were like, ‘I can develop more. This isn’t my best.’ And if I want to make it to a high-major school, which is my dream, then I want to stay back a year.”

Haugh decided to take a post-grad year and move into the 2023 class; the improvements could already be seen in his senior season.

He boosted his averages to 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2 blocks and 1.5 steals per game on 54% shooting and 35% from three-point range. He hit 26 3s after hitting zero his junior year.

The Panthers went 26-11, peaked at No. 11 in the country for prep schools, and went to their first PAISSA state title before losing to Westtown.

Haugh (above) saw his recruiting go high-major after his outside shooting improved. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“We talked to him in the middle of his first year with us and I was trying to tell him then that he should try and go 2023, because he’d be a Power 5 kid if he did,” Baudinet said. “He had all the tools and things projection-wise that you’d look for in a high-major guy. He had the size, the length, the feel, competitiveness, skill set. He just needed a little more time for his body to keep developing and getting stronger.”

In his post-grad season, Haugh will take on a much larger scoring role as the go-to guy and wants to improve his ball-handling and pull-up game.

“I want to be able to come off screens and not always be the one setting the screens,” he said. “At this level, you have 6-9 guys doing that. Also being able to shoot off the dribble better like two-dribble and spin-move pull-ups.”

Golden told Haugh, who’s officially 6-9 ½ and 207 pounds, he will play the ‘3’ and ‘4’ as a Gator.

Golden played point guard at Saint Mary’s and two years in the Israeli Basketball Premier League before becoming an assistant coach at Columbia, Auburn, and San Francisco. He eventually took over as head coach at San Francisco leading the Dons to a cumulative 57-36 record in his three seasons and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2021-22. He was hired as Florida’s head coach in March.

Golden takes over one of 15 schools to win at least two NCAA men’s basketball championships, although the Gators have lost in the second round the last three times they’ve been in the tournament in 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2020-21. Florida went 9-9 in the SEC and 20-14 overall last year and missed out on the tournament.

For Haugh, the transition from Pennsburg to Gainesville will be just a bit different than the transition from New Oxford to Pennsburg but uprooting from his childhood home to follow his dreams helped him in more ways than basketball.

“It definitely prepared me,” Haugh said on transitioning to the Perkiomen School and now the much bigger move to Florida. “Just being able to do the simple stuff like laundry or cleaning your room all the time or even going out and getting food. It made me self-reliable and comfortable living by myself.”

He wants to live in the south when he’s older saying, “Florida is as south as you can get.” He plans to major in business or biology down in the sunshine state.

All of the calculated, difficult decisions Haugh and his family have made to further his life and basketball career have worked out. The hard work has been rewarded.

“We just went with it and it has paid off,” Haugh said on his journey. “I mean, look at it now. It’s all been a blessing.”

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