UT's Hubbs eager to listen, learn from teammates' experience

Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 10:01pm

KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee guard Robert Hubbs III already understands one secret to success even though he hasn't begun his college career yet.

That secret: Follow the example of the team's best player.

Just about every time all-Southeastern Conference guard Jordan McRae prepares to go to the gym, he sends a text message or email to Hubbs first asking the highly touted freshman to join him. Hubbs inevitably makes sure to get there.

"Whatever he does, I'm going to try to do too," Hubbs said. "He's all-SEC, and that's what I'm trying to get one day."

Hubbs is arriving at Tennessee amid high expectations. The 6-foot-5 guard from Dyer County High School in Newbern, Tenn., was ranked as the No. 19 overall 2013 prospect in the 247 Composite, which equally weighs the ratings of all the major recruiting outlets.

His presence could help prevent opposing backcourts from focusing all their attention on stopping McRae, who ranked third in the SEC with 19.2 points per game in league competition last season.

Hubbs already has shown plenty of promise, yet he won't even celebrate his 18th birthday until next month.

"I told him that when I was 17, I wasn't nearly as good as he is at 17," McRae said.

Hubbs says he isn't bothered by the expectations that come with his status as a prize recruit. Hubbs insists there's no extra burden that comes with his ranking.

"I have no pressure on me," Hubbs said. "I just go out there and just play my game."

Hubbs should have a somewhat easier time adjusting to the college game because he's joining a veteran team.

Tennessee returns three of its top four scorers from a team that went 20-13 last season. The Volunteers also plan to bring in Memphis transfer Antonio Barton and welcome back former second-team all-SEC forward Jeronne Maymon, who missed the entire 2012-13 season with an injured left knee.

McRae's presence could have the biggest impact on Hubbs' development. Hubbs listens to everything McRae says. He watches how his older teammate goes about his business.

"I'm just following his lead," Hubbs said. "We're going to make a big impact."

Hubbs already knows the value of learning from a mentor. Before he got to campus and started working with McRae, Hubbs developed into an elite recruit with plenty of help from his father, Robert Hubbs Jr.

Hubbs and his father spent countless days working together. Hubbs Jr. made sure his son took a certain number of bank shots, layups and free throws each session. They'd work on all sorts of individual drills designed at improving Hubbs III's basketball IQ.

Hubbs eventually developed the type of game that made him an elite recruit. Hubbs Jr. believes his son also has the type of personality that will help him live up to his ranking.

"He's a different kid," Hubbs Jr. said. "He's not the type to get hyped up (about) fame and all that stuff. He's low key. He doesn't say a whole lot. He just wants to play the game of basketball."

Hubbs is much more exciting on the floor than in front of a microphone. Hubbs already has impressed his new teammates with the range on his jumper. He also showcases his athleticism each time he drives to the basket.

"He's obviously a very talented player," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He's a guy who can score the ball, a tremendous athlete (with) a great feel for the game. He can do a lot of things. But also (for) a guy with his ability to score the ball, he has the mentality that he talks defense all the time. He wants to be a defensive stopper."

Hubbs' arrival could give Martin an elusive NCAA tournament appearance.

Martin led Missouri State to a CollegeInsider.com Tournament title in 2010 and an NIT appearance in 2011. He went back to the NIT each of the last two years with Tennessee. But he hasn't reached the NCAA tournament thus far in his head coaching career.

Perhaps Hubbs can help put the Vols over the top.

"Hubbs is going to be a great player," McRae said. "He's only 17 years old. The sky's the limit for him."