‘The Best Dunker in the World’ transfers to Sac State

James Burns

Contrary to popular belief, Jameel Pugh ? tabbed “The Best Dunker in the World” by SLAM magazine coming out of high school ? can?t jump through the roof or take flight from half court. Nevertheless, his 47-inch vertical leap has elevated him into a class of the world?s greatest high-risers, which includes Vince Carter, Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.

And, as the crowning jewel in men?s basketball coach Jerome Jenkins 2001-02 recruiting class, Pugh has much more in store for Sacramento State.

“I still got some years left in me,” Pugh said. “My best basketball will definitely be in a Hornet uniform.”

And the dunks?

“I?ll definitely have some new stuff for Midnight Madness,” said Pugh, who stands at 6-foot-4.

Pugh, who attended the University of Massachusetts after graduating from Grant Union High School in Sacramento, will be transferring to Sac State in the fall where he will join the Hornets as a redshirt junior.

Pugh won?t don a Hornet game jersey until the 2003-04 season, but he will be allowed to participate in practices.

“I felt very comfortable with the coaches,” Pugh said of Jenkins and his staff. “It feels really good to come home and play in front of family and friends. There were other schools, but after talking to Jenkins, I knew this was the school for the next two years.”

Other west coast schools had garnered Pugh?s attention, including the Pac-10?s Oregon State University as well as San Diego State University, San Jose State University and the St. Mary?s College. In the end, however, it was Jenkins? savvy recruiting style and the Sac State campus that lured Pugh in.

“I am definitely excited. I wish I could transfer next week,” said Pugh, who will finish out the academic semester at UMass. “The campus is beautiful. I love it. It?s a lot better than UMass. The whole campus is clean and neat.”

Pugh played in 28 games for the Minutemen over his two years with the program, averaging 3.0 points and 1.4 rebounds. Before leaving the team just before the 2002 Atlantic-10 tournament, Pugh poured in a career-high 22 points in 22 minutes of play against Fordham University. His playing time drastically diminished during the next two games (nine minutes in two games), leading to his departure.

“I didn?t feel like a significant part of the team,” Pugh said of his time at UMass. “I wanted to be more a factor and an influence. I wanted to go somewhere where I was needed more than wanted.”

Just days after signing his letter of intent, Pugh already seems like a perfect fit for Jenkins? ambitious assault on Sac State?s postseason drought.

“I?m going to bring a winning attitude and, when you win, personal attributes come with it,” Pugh said. “Our goals are set high. We want to win league and make the tournament. We?re not going to settle for anything less. I think we have the talent to do it.”

Joining Pugh in the latest recruiting class are 6-10 power forward Djibril Diop, who is transferring from Foothill Junior College, and DeShawn Freeman, a point guard out of St. Mary?s High School in Berkeley.

At 6-4, Pugh?s role on the court has yet to be defined. But, with an unmatched leaping ability, Pugh expects to contribute in a number of ways.

“I understand I am going to be a wingman, with no set position,” said Pugh, who was rated the No. 2 shooting guard on the west coast by the Bob Gibbons All-Star Report coming out of high. “Rebounding, defensive intensity and court presence are what I?m trying to bring to the court. I want to oppose my world on the other team and be dominant.

“I want to make sure when I do something, it brings the team?s intensity up.”

Usually, that mean?s dunking a basketball ? something Pugh does with ease. Pugh recently captured his 18th straight slam-dunk competition at the Umass Midnight Madness basketball festival last season, with an array of dunks that included an elbow-in-the-rim jam that stirred up images of the NBA?s Vince Carter.

Not bad, considering that Pugh has made dunking from the charity stripe look easy.

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