CHARLOTTESVILLE — Through thick and thin, Eastern Hancock sophomore A.J. Muegge remains the same.
Forced to face unthinkable circumstances at an unimaginable time, Muegge has been nothing but Mr. Consistent for the Royals basketball team. And if the smooth-shooting guard appears to be on top of the world when playing the games he loves, it’s because he is.
Off the court, however, as Muegge has learned, life can be anything but steady.
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When Muegge’s mother, Lisa, passed away on Jan. 28, a ripple was felt throughout the Hancock County community. At home, it was like being blindsided by a hurricane.
But it wasn’t in the comfort of his own house where Muegge learned the terrible news. Instead, it was at school after being taken out of class.
“I wasn’t really concerned about my mom, but once we started walking towards the office, and I saw my dad, I knew,” Muegge said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet. It’s life changing, and it takes a while for something like that to sink in.
“At school I try to not let my mind wonder. But of course when you get home you start thinking because it’s so different.”
Eastern Hancock head coach and athletics director Aaron Spaulding knows the Muegge family quite well. He described Muegge’s mother as the “team mom” of sorts, always allowing friends and teammates over after long game nights.
“Our boys felt pretty bad,” Spaulding said. “She was a great lady and a model-type parent.”
Through it all, though, Muegge has been as stable and reliable as any player in the area.
Averaging 13.1 points per game for the young Royals, the 5-foot-10 sharp-shooter has reached double figures in 10 of the team’s last 11 contests. He just missed double digits by scoring eight points against Class 2A No. 1 Lapel on Feb. 6.
His scoring average ranks fifth in the county as Muegge also chips in 3.0 rebounds per game and 1.6 assists per game. From behind the 3-point line, Muegge has been solid, too, hitting 33 of 76 attempts (43 percent), which ranks fourth among all players in the area.
Maybe the most “Muegge” night ever came in an upset win against then No. 1 Shenandoah on Jan. 23, as he scored 15 points on a 5 of 7 shooting effort to help the Royals top the Raiders 63-57 at home.
“It’s kind of surreal. You dream of playing varsity in any sport and when you get there, wow,” he said. “Growing up in Indiana and being an Indiana kid, I guess you kind of fall in love with the game.”
But how has Muegge triumphed in a time of tragedy?
Instead of hiding, Muegge continued on with his routine — like nothing ever happened.
Rather than canceling the team’s game the day after his mother’s passing, Muegge said let’s play. It was just what felt right.
He went on to hit a season-high four 3-pointers in the team’s 55-51 loss to Irvington Prep Academy.
“She’s always my biggest cheerleader,” Muegge said. “Knowing her, she would have wanted me to play. She wouldn’t want them to stop the game.”
Her impact on the county was felt one night later. On Jan. 30, the Greenfield-Central and Eastern Hancock communities collaborated as one, deciding to host a “white out” night to remember the fun-loving mother of three. A moment of silence was held before the game.
“I’ve been playing sports with kids from Greenfield since I was 4 or 5 years old,” Muegge said. “To see them rally around us, my family and the community, it was just really cool. I was really inspired to see how we come together in tough times.”
Since then, just last weekend, Muegge registered a career night against Mid-Hoosier Conference foe Indian Creek, scoring a career-high 21 points in a narrow defeat. He also totaled his third-highest scoring output Feb. 4 in a 73-57 victory against Tri with 19 points.
“He has exceed my expectations this year,” Spaulding said. “I didn’t expect him to be as good as he is. That’s obviously what you want from kids. He has been real solid for us all year and has gotten better for us.
“He is very well grounded. And has two great parents.”
The biggest help in this tough battle, however, has not been basketball. It’s come from Muegge’s home away from home — his friends, teammates and coaches at Eastern Hancock.
“We’ve always been a close team,” Muegge said. “They proceed with the normal, like everything is just fine. I like that; everything is similar.”
Just like Mr. Consistent.
A.J. Muegge, Eastern Hancock Sophomore Guard
• 13.1 points per game
• 3.0 rebounds per game
• 1.6 assists per game
• 33 made 3-pointers (43 percent)
• 76 percent from foul line
• 47 percent from 2-point range
• Double figures in 10 of last 11 contests