Tonawanda News — It’s tough to miss Connor Pumm. The senior — who plays basketball for Tonawanda in the winter and football during the fall — stands at 6-foot-5.
In a game this past season on the gridiron, Pumm, who lines up at tight end, caught a pass from hoops teammate and quarterback Tristan Boling at about the 20-yard line, and then ran it in for the touchdown. That was after he was hit by a pair of defenders at the 5-yard line and took the pair with him past the goal line, both unable to bring the athletic, physical Pumm down.
But as dominant as he’s been on the football field the past two seasons for the Warriors, Pumm stood in the shadow of Clayton Hess on the hard court last season as a junior.
Hess had a terrific career at Tonawanda, scoring more than 1,000 points before graduating last Spring. But without him this season the Warriors were forced to find a new identity and it all starts with teamwork.
“I haven’t really filled Clayton’s shoes because I don’t think it can be done,” Pumm said. “But I think we all just changed a little bit. The offense doesn’t really flow through any one person, and I think that’s actually a good thing for us. We just have a bunch of players that have come together.”
Pumm has emerged as a go-to player on the perimeter and in the post for Tonawanda (9-6, 6-3 ECIC IV). Along with co-captain Ben Stich and Boling, the Warriors have developed into a team with a bunch of unselfish players that fill their roles.
Warriors coach Hank Hughes, who said his team has had its ups and downs this year, said the Warriors have started to come together since Christmas break. Players understand their roles and are executing on both ends.
“I think Connor was doing good until Christmas, and then he had one game in a tournament where he struggled,” Hughes said. “But ever since then he’s almost been dominant offensively, and especially on the glass. He comes in and works every single day and looks to improve.”
Pumm’s work ethic has rubbed off on his teammates. Hughes said other guys see how hard Pumm and Stich work, and everybody wants to match that dedication.
On the court, Pumm has blossomed into a complete player who ranks among the top players at his position in ECIC IV, Hughes said.
“He doesn’t let things bother him,” Hughes said. “There was one game against West Seneca East, he played terrible. But he shook it off and comes in and works. I didn’t expect him to be this good offensively, but he’s shooting it well from the outside, inside, post moves and has been finishing strong with his lay ups.
“I told him, ‘Nobody can really stop you if you do it the right way.’ He’s finally starting to understand that, that he’s tough to stop because he is so big and strong,” Hughes continued. “He’s really learned.”
Pumm spent the summer working on all areas of his game, from his post moves to his improved jump shot. What he brings to his team from a skill standpoint and as a leader makes him one of the most valuable players to come through the Tonawanda program during Hughes’ tenure.
“I can honestly say this: I think Connor Pumm — all-around athlete, person off the floor, in the class room — I think he’s number one in my seven years coaching here,” Hughes said. “I’ve had some really good kids, and kids I’ve really liked, but I can’t speak highly enough of him. He’s a great student and a very nice kid. It’s going to be a huge loss not having him around next year.”
The Warriors continue their season tonight when they host Cleveland Hill at 6:30 p.m.Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.