Tommy Haugh admitted he was a bit of a bandwagon sports fan growing up.
How else does a kid from Adams County become a Florida Gators fan?
A future basketball star, Haugh was a bigger fan of college football during his childhood years. And like many across the country, he was captivated by the powerful, All-American force playing quarterback for the Gators.
"I loved Tim Tebow," he said. "It's kinda random, right? I guess you could call it a bandwagon thing, but that was a big influence on me."
More than a decade later, Haugh has earned the opportunity to play for what he called his "dream school."
A former New Oxford High School player, who now plays for the Perkiomen School in Montgomery County, Haugh verbally committed to play basketball for Florida last week. While originally part of the class of 2022, Haugh will spend one more year in prep school before enrolling at the SEC powerhouse in 2023.
Florida missed the NCAA Tournament last season with a 20-14 record, but the Gators have made nine tournament appearances, three Elite Eight trips and one Final Four since winning back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.
On one hand, it's not surprising to see Haugh earn such an impressive opportunity. Standing 6-foot-9 with the ability to shoot from the outside, Haugh has the height, length and skillset that college coaches love to see in forwards. He received more than 20 Division I offers since the summer of 2020.
Still, his recruitment didn't always seem destined to explode the way it did this spring. After earning a slew of mid major offers in 2021, Haugh received scholarship opportunities from Big Ten schools (Maryland, Northwestern, Illinois) and ACC programs (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech) after a strong season this winter.
It crescendoed at the end of June with an offer and official visit from the school he always wanted to hear from. Former University of San Francisco coach Todd Golden was hired at Florida in March and added one of his old assistants, Richmond's Kevin Hovde, to his staff. Haugh had already been recruited by Hovde at Richmond.
"Once I visited there I just knew," Haugh said. "I really wanted to eliminate the bias I had for them and just compare them to other schools, but everything was great. I enjoyed the staff and got to work out with the team. I knew it was the place I wanted to be."
— Thomas Haugh (@ThomasHaugh4) June 29, 2022
Haugh has reached a level that no one from his original high school ― and not many from York and Adams counties ― has reached. New Oxford has sent a few girls' basketball players like Carrie Timmins (1999, Delaware) and Courtney Davidson (2000, Navy) to smaller NCAA Division I teams, but hasn't had any of its boys players make it to that level. The program's all-time leading scorer, John Harner, played for East Stroudsburg in the 1960s.
Of course, Haugh has followed a different path ― though one similar to many high-level recruits ― by leaving his hometown for a different type of high school experience. But Haugh's journey from Adams County to suburban Philadelphia prep school to the SEC goes even deeper than that.
His improvement from childhood to his teenage years has come from not just steady growth spurts but also a burning commitment to his craft.
"It's surreal," he said about his path to Florida. "It shows that hard work can pay off. You've gotta be diligent. When I practiced with Florida, I saw the speed of their game. I've gone from high school speed to prep school speed and now college speed. It'll be another move."
From a 5-foot-6 goofball to a 6-foot-9 star
Haugh always had the pedigree of an athlete.
Both his parents played college sports at Shippensburg. His mom was a middle hitter on the volleyball team and his dad a linebacker on the football team. His maternal grandfather, Mike Fuhrman, is a South Western High School grad who played tight end for the University of Memphis and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts. Fuhrman is also 6-foot-6 ― which explains his grandson's height (both of Haugh's parents are around 6-feet tall).
But while Haugh was always good at sports, he wasn't pegged as a future basketball star. He played quarterback in youth football and also loved volleyball. In hoops, he was a promising guard who at 5-foot-6 was taller than the average sixth-grader but still needed to develop athletically.
"He always had good size and length, but I don't think we saw 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot wingspan coming," said former New Oxford head coach Sean Bair, who met Haugh in fifth grade. "He was a good athlete, but a little awkward physically and super lanky. He was always growing and his body needed to catch up. He had these massive feet that were always slapping around. But I think it helped that he used to be smaller so he had the foundation of good guard skills.
"But he was always in the gym working and his parents were committed to giving him every opportunity possible. He could be goofy but there was always a seriousness to how he carried himself."
By the time he was in eighth grade, Haugh was 6-foot-3. By the end of his sophomore year, he was nearly 6-foot-8 and averaging eight points and seven rebounds for a New Oxford team that went 26-5 and reached the state quarterfinals before the coronavirus pandemic ended the season. Capable of hitting 3-pointers, blocking shots and throwing down dunks, Haugh scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a state playoff win over York Suburban.
It ended up being his last game for the Colonials. About a month after he received his first college offer from Mount St. Mary's in July of 2020. Haugh decided to transfer to Perkiomen ― a boarding school that features players from New York, Maryland and even Canada and plays against other prep schools loaded with future college talent.
Haugh said he adjusted quickly after some early nerves. But he didn't get immediate playing time since the Panthers had five future college players in the Class of 2021.
He didn't get his second Division I offer (Albany) until June 2021 ― about a year after he got his first. But that opened the floodgates and he had 12 mid major offers by the end of last summer. The list included Lehigh, Lafayette, Fairfied, Boston and Holy Cross.
However, he still felt like he could play at a higher level. And after averaging about 10 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots per game against excellent competition this season, he finally received interest from Power Five schools. He also decided to reclassify to give himself another year to develop and attract colleges.
"I wasn't offer chasing. I was really thankful for the offers I had," he said. "But I looked at my body and my development and thought I could push it up a notch. My parents were a little scared to look past some really good academic offers but I believed in myself."
Most likely done growing, Haugh said he's "6-foot-10 with shoes on" and 210 pounds after weighing 185 as a New Oxford sophomore. National recruiting website 247Sports describes him as "an extreme competitor with a good natural feel for the game" and "extreme defensive versatility."
Haugh's next step will be becoming more of a go-to scorer, but he seems to be making progress in that area. Last month, he scored 33 points for his Under Armour-affiliated AAU team at a game in New Jersey.
Florida coaches attended that game and extended their offer soon after.
"We thought he would be really good. Did we think he'd be Florida good? Well, anyone who proclaims they know what someone will specifically be three years down the road is fooling themselves a bit," said Bair, who now is an assistant for the Monmouth women's team after stints with the Arkansas men's and Penn State women's programs. "He went from a committed kid to one of the couple hundred most committed kids in the country. I laugh when I watch videos of the incredible things he does now because he was a good athlete but not supremely. That's been him committing to the physical part."
Chasing his dream
While Haugh enjoyed his time at New Oxford, he doesn't regret his decision to leave.
It's a path that a number of local basketball stars like Walker and Gettysburg's Quadir Copeland (Syracuse) have also taken. Former Spring Grove and Michigan star Eli Brooks might be the rare exception of a player who goes straight from the YAIAA to the Power Five level, though Central York junior Greg Guidinger already has three smaller Division I offers (Toledo, Robert Morris, Drexel).
"The speed of the game and the size of the players is just different," he said about prep school basketball. "There are guards and small forwards who are 6-foot-5. In the YAIAA those are the tallest guys."
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Still, Haugh said he received congratulatory messages from not only friends in New Oxford but also opposing coaches from around the YAIAA when he announced his commitment. He said it reminded him of the tight-knit environment he grew up in.
He's also receiving messages from his new fanbase. He said Florida fans responded to his commitment post by comparing him to Chandler Parsons, the 6-foot-9 former Gators sharpshooter who played nine years in the NBA.
It reminded Haugh of how far he's come but how far he still needs to go.
"I know the work I still need to put in," he said. "Hopefully people see a kid from Adams County do this and believe in themselves and chase their dreams."
Matt Allibone is a sports reporter for GameTimePA. He can be reached at 717-881-8221, email@example.com or on Twitter at @bad2theallibone.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Florida basketball: New Oxford native Tommy Haugh makes commitment