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Basketball not just a second sport for Oxford’s J.J. Pegues

OXFORD – Oxford running back has been getting recruited to play football for years. Last week, he was offered a scholarship to play under Nick Saban at Alabama. However, right now the junior’s focus is on the hardwood, where he’s one of the most valuable pieces to the Charger playoff run.

“I really treat basketball the same way as football. It’s the same mentality, just a different sport. We’re out here trying to get the championship, but I’m just having fun. My dad played basketball, so it just runs in the family.”

Not only did Pegues’ dad play basketball. He played basketball at Oxford, with almost the same coaching staff. Oxford head coach Drew Tyler has been at the helm for the Chargers for 22 years now. Before that, he was an assistant for the Chargers.

“Coaching JJ is easy, it really is. I was an assistant coach here when his dad was on the team, so I coached his dad. They just love winning. He comes from a winning family,” Tyler said. “On his free time on Saturday’s and Sunday’s he’s going to be at the Oxford activities center playing basketball. He’s an athlete and I think he surprises people by how well he moves for his size.”

Pegues speculates he’s been playing basketball as long as he’s been playing football, maybe longer. He estimated he was seven years old when he first started playing rec league ball with the Oxford Parks Commission, confirming what coach Tyler said about just ‘wanting to ball when I get the chance there.’

Between the lines on the football field, Pegues is classified as an ‘athlete’ on recruiting databases. While he loves basketball, it’s certainly football that’s in his future. Pegues is classified as a 4-star recruit on the 247sports composite rankings, the number three overall player in the state of Mississippi and the number 11 player in the country classified as an athlete. Outside of Alabama, he holds offers from Ole Miss – his first offer – Auburn, Mississippi State and Southern Miss, all to play football.

Despite his future, right now, the junior forward is focused on basketball. His 6-foot-3, 260-pound frame is an imposing presence inside on the basketball court. A bunch of teams in the playoffs have a player or two at Pegues’ height or taller, but it’s unlikely that any have someone that can match his overall size, making him a big mismatch advantage for the Chargers.

“He does a lot of our dirty work around the goal. He’s got the body to be able to be the enforcer on both ends,” Tyler said. “But he’s really calm, cool and collected. The other guys really feed off that.”

Pegues refers to all the recruiting attention as a ‘blessing’ but says that his focus now is to stay level-headed and to be a great teammate to the kids he’s playing with right now.

However, what would Pegues say if Nick Saban or Matt Luke asked him to sit out the 2019-20 basketball season? J.J. laughed. “If they do I’m still going to play.”