Tag Archives: Robert Hubbs

Explosive Potential: An Interview With Robert Hubbs III

6’5″ Duke Recruit Robert Hubbs III of Newbern, TN, Photo by Andrew Slater

“Basketball never stops” is a current marketing slogan from Nike, but it also describes the kinetic lifestyle of elite prospects like potential All-American Robert Hubbs III. It’s the price a young man pays for going from a local prospect to a regional target to a national recruit. This Saturday, Robert will be playing in the Big Strick Classic on 138th street in Manhattan, after scrimmaging the night before at the courts of Dyckman Park. It’s more than one thousand miles away from his hometown of Newbern, Tennessee, a small town less than a two hour drive north of Memphis. For Hubbs, a high-scoring wing with a disarming smile, this is the culmination of a four month cross-country tour that has seen him raise his profile nationally, while garnering awards and hard earned college scholarships from programs such as Duke University.

As part of the coaching staff with both Dyer County High School and M33M AAU program, Robert Hubbs II has been working very closely with his now 6’5″ 190 lb. son on skill development and helping to build his core strength. They work on taking roughly two hundred and fifty jump shots per day. It has enabled Robert, always an explosive athlete, to have the confidence to take deep three-pointers and it has forced defenders not to play as far off of him as they did in the past, when they primarily feared his penchant for attacking the rim.

In April, at the Jack Jones Shootout at the Briarcrest Christian School, Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University saw Robert Hubbs III for the first time and, within days, the United States Men’s Olympic basketball coach formally offered the rising senior an opportunity to be a Duke Blue Devil. Hubbs, a Lakers and Kobe Bryant fan, has steadily seen his rankings rise as he’s performed well at such events as the Real Deal in the Rock in Arkansas, the Reebok Breakout Challenge in Philadelphia, the Best Buy Classic in Minneapolis, and, most recently, at the Fab 48 in Las Vegas.

Forming a potent one-two punch with friend and fellow Duke recruit 6’9″ Austin Nichols, the M33M tandem utilized the pick-and-roll and high-low passing game effectively and consistently. Defensively, Nichols, a skilled, highly athletic forward from Colliersville, Tennessee, also provided shot-blocking with his 7’2″ wingspan, while Robert Hubbs gave Coach Ernie Kuyper of M33M the coveted defensive versatility of being able to guard all three perimeter positions with his athleticism and length. Austin Nichols magnanimously said of his running mate, “Oh, he’s a great player. He can run, he can jump, he can shoot the ball. He’s a great ball-handler. He’s just a great player overall. He’s been great to play with.”

Hubbs will be sitting down with his mother, Lesia, and father, Robert II, soon and trimming his list of potential destinations for college, but he’d like to play in front of a passionate fan base, as he has grown accustomed to with the Dyer County HS Chippewa, and compete for a National Championship.

We spoke about the recruiting process, his rapid ascent, playing with Austin Nichols, his explosiveness, and working with his father.

 

For others who haven’t seen you play, how would you describe your game?

I like to attack the rim, get players involved, and make everybody, including myself, involved.

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Jeff Borzello: What schools are coming after you hard right now?

A lot of SEC schools and couple of ACC schools. 

Jason Hickman: What schools have offered you?

Really, all of them. Well, all of the SEC schools, except for Kentucky and LSU.  Duke has offered me, Oklahoma State has offered me. A whole lot of them really. Gonzaga. 

JB:Who’s coming at you hardest?

Probably Tennessee. 

JH: Has Auburn moved up higher on your list since they hired Ryan Miller as their coach?

Well, you know, Auburn is a good school, but I’m still wide open right now. I’m just taking it day by day. 

Which visits have you taken and what ones do you have planned?

I’ve been to Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Memphis, and Tennessee. I don’t have any officially planned yet. I don’t know yet. 

Jason Hickman: When would you say was the point where you felt the attention coming towards you? Was there a turning point?

I would say in the middle of my junior year. I don’t know if there was a specific event, I just kept playing basketball with the guys and just trying to get better every day. 

JB: What are you looking for in a school?

Championship contender, fast-paced, a team that you know can get up and down. I want to win some ball games. 

I saw you here last year. How has it been for you playing with Austin?

It’s amazing. We’ve got great chemistry, we do a lot of pick-and-roll stuff. He’s a pick-and-roll guy. 

I like the nastiness that he showed here.

Yeah, yeah. So do I. (laughs) We work well together, we just play hard every day. 

Obviously, there are some schools that are looking at the both of you. Have you thought about playing together in college? Have you talked about it? What do you think the odds are?

We’ve talked about it. I mean, it’s just a different thing for me and him. 

Your handle has improved to the point where you can play more than one position. You can bring some versatility to a staff or a team. Where do you view yourself as a preferred position if you have a choice? 

I see myself as a two. I’d like to play a two or a three, but I prefer the two.

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

Well, my strengths are, you know, I’m an attacker.  I’m a long-range shooter. 

Well, you had a lucky bounce on that forty-footer.

(laughs) Yeah, well, my dad always tells me to shoot deep because that’s the only way you’ll learn.

What are you trying to work on?

I’m trying to work on my strength. That’s about it.

Is there a guy you try to model your game after?

Um, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, one of them.

You mentioned your range, but you look more comfortable shooting the ball.

I’ve been working a lot on shooting and training my shots since last year. I really used to not jump high enough on my shot. I think that’s helped with my shot. It’s helped my confidence. 

Well, you have such explosion.

Mmm hmm. 

Do you do a lot of repetitions? Do you take a lot of shots?

Yeah, I always take a lot of shots. I take a lot of shots with my dad. I take about 250 shots with my dad. 

Did your dad play at all?

Yeah, he did.

In college, too?

Yeah, in high school and then at an Arkansas college. 

That’s good. 

Yeah, yeah.

The two schools that seem to come up a lot with you are Tennessee and Duke. What’s the appeal of each? We’ll start with Tennessee.

Well, Tennessee, they go to a lot of my games, so I like it. I mean, it’s a good school. Duke is one of the best schools of all time, the best coach in Coach K.

Coach James is here. 

Yeah, yeah, Coach K is..

A little busy right now.

Yeah. It’s a good school. 

What would you like to see from the programs before you decide on it? What do you hope to find in the programs that you ultimately decide upon? Do you have sort of a checklist? Like factors in your decision.

First, an education. I’d really like a good fan base school. I’d like passionate fans at every game. I’d like to see fans in the stands. 

You’d like to see it packed?

I’d like to see passionate fans and stuff.  

I was reading about how your fans at your high school, Dyer County, are really passionate and hyped. Is that true? I heard they travel around with you.

Oh, yeah, man, I got fans that travel around wherever we go, whether it’s high school or AAU. They go everywhere. I’m fortunate. 

Who are some people that you will turn to for guidance, whenever you do make a decision? I assume your father. Who else?

My mom and my dad, really. Nobody really else.

That’s probably best.

Yeah. 

You talked a little bit about it before, but what do you sort of think about all of this attention since you’ve exploded onto the scene? It’s so much more than last year. It’s got to be a lot to take in.

I really don’t think about it. I just try to go out there and play hard every day, be the best player I can, and move forward.

How do you account for the improvement? Is it a matter of things coming together or maturity?

I don’t know. I really don’t know, man. 

When did Duke start recruiting you?

They started recruiting me at the end of April, I think. After the Real Deal. I don’t know exactly.

How did it happen? Did Coach K see you?

Well, you know, we won the tournament and I played real well.  

Can you give a scouting report on Austin (Nichols)?

He’s just like a good big man, you know. He’s a pick-and-roll guy. He defends the rim and scores the baskets. 

What are you working on most right now? A lot of shooting? What’s going on in terms of your workouts?

I’d say outside of getting ready for high school basketball, I’m just working on speed and getting stronger.  

Do you do a lot of running?

Yeah.

Who’s been the toughest opponent for you so far? 

The toughest opponent I’ve ever faced is probably Jabari Parker, I would say, at the USA tryouts. Yeah, I would have to say Jabari Parker.

How would you assess your defense at this point? I think you’ve improved that since last year. You’ve always had the athleticism, but you seem more committed this year than last year.

I really feel comfortable guarding everybody from the 1 through 3, or even the 1 through 4 if I have to. I’ve just tried to work on my body so I could work against a smaller guard, then build it up so I can play against a bigger one too.

Defensive versatility.

Mmm Hmm.

What about your handle?

That’s one thing I try to work on a lot. It’s something that I’ve always got to concentrate on. You’ve gotta be able to dribble the ball anywhere. When I go with my dad to the gym or whatever, I work out. 

That’s what I told somebody else that the kid’s handle has  improved so much from last year, that now he feel comfortable being able to dribble anywhere around the court. 

Yeah. 

A kid in the stands wanted me to ask you what your vertical is? He heard that it was forty-eight inches.

(laughs) I really don’t know. I mean they measured it at the Reebok camp, but really didn’t tell me. (laughs) 

I’m not sure about that forty-eight inches, but, it’s gotta be huge, though.

Yeah, yeah. (laughs)

Where do you think you got that explosiveness from? Genetics? Your father’s work?

I guess both my dad and the weight room. I just work a lot on explosiveness.  We do a lot of drills to make me jump higher. 

What’s your favorite NBA team? Are you a Grizzlies fan? You were wearing that Miami Heat shirt.

No, I’m a Lakers man. I’m a big Kobe guy. 

What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?

I’m a very quiet guy, you know.  I don’t go out…I stay at home and I play video games. 

Yeah, sure. What’s your favorite basketball memory?

I really don’t know. 

What’s your current size?

6’5 ½,” 190. 

What would you like to be in terms of your body by the time you’re ready for college?

6’6” to 6’7″ 210.

You mentioned before about speed, but in terms of strength and conditioning, what are you working on most? Maybe tell people about your regimen.

Well, in terms of strength, I go to the weight room..a lot. I do a lot of types of drills and stuff. Fast-paced, you know, getting stronger. 

What’s your timeline in terms of making a decision?

I thought about November, but it’s really in God’s hands. We’ll let Him work it out.

Thanks a lot, Robert.

Thank you.

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6'9" Duke Recruit Austin Nichols, Photo by Andrew Slater

The Running Man: An Interview With Austin Nichols

6’9″ Duke Recruit Austin Nichols, Photo by Andrew Slater

For a self-described “goofy kid,” 6’9″ Austin Nichols of Memphis has a serious game. Blessed with a 7’2″ wingspan, he is one of the most skilled big men in high school basketball, and has demonstrated the ability and desire to get out and run the floor.

On a senior-laden Briarcrest Christian team, the junior averaged over eighteen points and nearly ten rebounds, while leading the city of Memphis in shooting for a second consecutive year. Nichols, who has added twenty-two pounds (he is now up to 202 pounds) since last year, was named Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball.

Nichols and fellow Duke recruit Robert Hubbs III, an ultra-athletic shooting guard from Dyer County in Tennessee, have been forming a nice one-two punch on the AAU circuit for M33M this year . They will be playing in Minneapolis and Las Vegas later this month.

Last summer, Austin attended Duke’s camp, and began a relationship with the Duke coaches. Before being introduced to Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Nichols first spoke with Associate Head Coach Chris Collins and later Coach Steve Wojciechowski. Coach K came and watched both Nichols and Hubbs play. In April, Austin became the first player this spring to be offered a scholarship by Duke.

In June, Nichols trained in the high altitude of Colorado Springs, Colorado for the United States U-18 team that eventually competed for the FIBA Americas Championship in Sao Sebastio do Paraiso, Brazil. He was one of the fourteen finalists, playing alongside incoming Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon and fellow Duke recruit Julius Randle.

This month, Austin has been busy competing in the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas, NV and the Reebok Breakout in Philadelphia, PA before he rejoins his friend Hubbs for AAU competition around the country.

While his twin sister will be a freshman at the University of Tennessee and his oldest sister will graduate in August from the University of Memphis, where his mother is an alumnus, Austin Nichols, who has a 3.4 GPA at Briarcrest and a strong Christian faith, plans on cutting down on his extensive list of college suitors in about six weeks. Recently, Nichols, who has the deep Tennesseean voice of a young country music singer, spoke with me about a variety of topics, including playing alongside Hubbs and Randle, his improved overall game, and his faith.

 

You’ve been on a nice run this year, winning Mr. Basketball and being a part of USA Basketball.
I mean, I definitely worked hard for it. It’s a dream come true, especially to become a part of USA Basketball. Even though I got cut, it was a great experience in Colorado and I had fun and everything like that. I met some new guys. And then winning Mr. Basketball, that was a great experience.
It’s the highest honor in your state.
 Oh, yeah. I was just excited and I worked hard to get it and I realized I want to work harder to get another one.
What was it like when you received the Duke offer? You were the first guy that they offered this spring.
 Yeah, I talked to Coach K two or three times before he offered and I was shocked, just shocked. It was April. I started talking to Coach Collins first and then I started talking to Coach Wojo and then I finally started talking to Coach K and he offered in early April. 
What was your initial reaction like?
 I really didn’t believe it at first. It really hit me about a day or two later. 
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Coach K had seen you play a few times at that point?
 Yeah, well, I went to their camp the summer before. They saw me there and then, yeah, over the early summer, he saw me a couple of times. 
I watched you a few times last year on the AAU circuit. In your opinion, what would you say you’ve improved on most over the past  year?
 Getting stronger, improving my jump-shot, keep running the floor, I think my offensive rebounding has improved. 
You look a little stronger as well, I must say.  Or at least bulked up from last year.
Yeah, I was 180 last year, I’m now up to 202.
What would you like to be? What’s the next step for you in terms of weight and size?
I’d like to get all the way up to 220 by Christmas. 
Oh, wow. 
Yeah, I think it’s going to be hard, but I think I can do it, adding lean muscle. 
For the majority of the audience who has never seen you play, what would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strengths are I have long arms, I can run the floor. Man, my weaknesses are probably my jumpshooting.
Oh, really? You think that is your major weakness?
Yeah, I can hit that 15-footer, but my 3-pointer really needs a lot of work. 
Oh, you’d like to move your range out even further?
Yeah,  I would. I just don’t feel as comfortable that far out.
By the way, do you view yourself as a 4-3? What position do you view yourself as?
Usually as a 3-4, sometimes even a 5, depending on the match-up or the line-up in the game.
With your twin sister at Tennessee, how will that affect your decision?
She’s going to be a freshman at Tennessee this year. I’m actually about 3 minutes older than her. She got held back, I mean, I got held back in 7th grade.
I assume it was purely for athletic reasons, right?
Oh, yeah, yeah. Absolutely, that’s right. And she, I mean, we always talk. We’re really close, so whatever she thinks that I might be interested in.
Does it give Tennessee a competitive advantage?
No, not really. She is there for me, regardless of what I decide.
Does she play basketball at all?
Oh, yeah, she played until 6th grade.
I was just curious about your various connections. By the way, who do you try to model your game after? You have, sort of, a unique one. 
 I’d have to say Dirk (Nowitzki) and then secondarily, I’d have to say Pau Gasol.
 So, you like to model your game after sort of tall, relatively athletic guys who have the versatility to step out and shoot it?
Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely, those are my type.
What about the pull of Memphis? 
Great coaching staff.
Great recruiters.
Yeah, they definitely are. 
Your mother went to Memphis as well, as I recall.
Yes, she went to the University of Memphis. She didn’t play basketball, but she was I think part of a band.
 Well, that counts for something. She’s bringing spirit.
(laughs) Yeah, thanks. She wants me to go to Memphis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. She‘ll support me. They’re really aggressive at recruiting me. I have to see. I’m neutral right now.
I was reading that you were planning on cutting down on your list relatively soon. What would you like to get it to and what is the mindset behind it? Is it to try to cut the list to a more manageable number?
 Probably in a month and a half. I’m not really sure how low I’m going to cut it to, but yes, to make it more manageable. 
By the way, are you a pretty good student?
Yeah, I’m pretty good. A’s and B’s. I’ve got about a 3.4 GPA. 
That’s about double most guys here.
(laughs)
Well, that’s at Briarcrest Christian, where Leslie McDonald went. Speaking of Leslie McDonald, has he tried to influence you about North Carolina?
 Yeah, about four weeks before school was out, he came by the school, he came to talk to me about going to North Carolina. Well, not just going to North Carolina, but being a college player. He was kind of getting me ready for it, waking me up early, telling me you had to get ready to go to practice, and just setting my mind right.
Do you think you have a good work ethic?
Yeah, I tend to think so. I get in the gym pretty constantly. 
Well, for the most part, you have to to maintain at this level. What about public versus private? Will that be an issue for you when picking a college? You obviously go to a private school right now, but I didn’t know if that was an issue. Will size be a factor as well?
 Well, actually, I went to a public school until 7th grade, so no, I can’t say, not really. 
So, it doesn’t really matter to you, per se?
 No, it doesn’t really matter.
This really varies from player to player, depending upon the level of competition or talent they face and what the level of talent they’re accustomed to playing with, but how would you compare your high school basketball versus AAU? How does the competition compare as well?
High school versus AAU ball? Well, AAU ball is definitely faster. School ball is definitely slowed down a little bit more.
What style of play do you prefer?
Fast, loose, let’s push the ball. I like to run, I think it’s an advantage I have. I like to push the pace.
You shot about 67% from the field this year in high school. How did you remain so efficient? Was it you were primarily playing inside? 
Yeah, I led the city of Memphis two years in a row in field goal percentage, but I really don’t know how I do it. It sort of just happens.
Having seen you play the last few days, I know how. Can you give a quick scouting report on Robert Hubbs?
 Oh, he’s a great player. He can run, he can jump, he can shoot the ball. He’s a great ball-handler. He’s just a great player overall. He’s been great to play with.
Back to you, what about your defense? You obviously take pride in it. You’ve been a good shot-blocker in the past and I know you put up some good numbers in high school. Also, how much do you attribute that to your length?
Well, in school ball, I average about four or five blocked shots a game. 
Well, you’ve got the length or wingspan.
Yeah, I’ve got the length and when I’m guarding a defender out, I try to use my length to keep them at a distance. I don’t try to play right up on them and they don’t quite realize my length and jumping ability. Some guys find it pretty frustrating.
On this year’s Briarcrest team, will you take on more of a leadership role? Do you think of yourself as a natural leader?
Yeah, well, on the high school team, I’ve been one of the youngest kids. Like last year, we had six or eight seniors on the team, so I didn’t have an opportunity to be a leader, but this year, I’m definitely going to take the role. I’m definitely going to take the role.
What about Faith? I was reading in several of the accounts that that was an important issue for you. It’s not something that I usually get into, but it came up Jabari Parker as well. Is it an important issue for you and will it factor into making your college decision?
Yeah, well, definitely when I make my decision for college, I’m definitely going to go with a coach that walks through Christ. That’s why I go to a Christian school, to be close to Christ. My parents are both Christian. 
 I always wonder. There are some guys that say it and there some guys that walk that life. It’s a difficult period in your life. 
 Yes, it is. 
In terms of visits, I know you’ve gone on a couple locally. Do you have any planned? 
Yeah, I mean, I may go on a couple in August. August 1st is the first day I can get back on the road, but I’m not sure yet though.
In terms of a basketball or a football school, will that factor into your decision at all? Some of the schools on your list are known more-so for their football programs. Does that matter to you at all?
No, it really doesn’t matter. It’s along the public-private lines.
In your mind, what would you like to improve upon to be “college ready”?
I definitely would like to add muscle. I’m not sure what weight. I’d like to improve my ball-handling and my shooting. Those are primarily the three things.
Can you tell the audience about your family and yourself away from the court?
Well, personally, I’m just a goofy kid off of the court. Like I said, I walk through Christ. I go to church. I’m just goofy, I’m just a regular kid, I guess.
What about your family? Are you close-knit?
Oh, yeah, definitely. We’re definitely close. I mean, especially with my twin sister, I can tell her just about everything.
Is it just the two of you or do you have any other siblings?
I have an older sister. She’s a senior at Memphis. She’s about to graduate in August.
Congratulations.
Thank you.
Do any of the guys on Team USA try to recruit you, would you say? It’s certainly an interesting dynamic. 
Well, first of all, Coach Donovan was there. He’s trying to recruit me.
No, actually, what I meant was more along the lines of the players. Guys like Nate Britt or Rasheed Sulaimon. 
Oh, okay, well, I wouldn’t say they really recruited me, but they talked with me about it. I mean, they’re good guys and everything. I met them and we talked, but I would just say they gave me positives about each of the schools. 
In an article about you and USA Basketball, it indicated that you had taken yourself out of the competition at the very end. Is that true and, if so, why did you do it? What was your mindset behind it?
The way I was playing, I don’t think I could play that way in Brazil. So I thought it would be better for me to drop out and let someone else take that spot. 
I guess that was selfless of you.
Yeah, well, hopefully. It’s just what I felt at the time.
Who do you turn to for guidance in big decisions?
Definitely my parents and my sister.
Your older one?
Actually, both of them. When we have time in August, we’re going to sit down and pray about it.
What are your overall thoughts on your performance at the LeBron James camp?
LeBron has definitely been a great camp. I’ve learned a lot. They have great teachers. 
What are your goals for next year?
Well, since it’s my last year, I’d like to just have some fun.
And win a state title, I would think.
Oh, yes, definitely.
Who are some guys that you are closest to on the circuit?
Jabari Bird is one, Robert Hubbs, and probably third would be Stevie Clark.
By the way, what is Hubbs like off of the court?
Oh, he’s cool. He’s real nice. You’d like to deal with him. 
Thanks, I haven’t talked to him.
He’s a real cool dude. You’d like him.
The next one is something that I was thinking about when I was coming in here. As you may have heard, they basically wiped out four AAU directors. In terms of AAU ball, how do you protect yourself against others that may have ulterior motives in helping you and helping your game? Do you ever think about stuff like that? What’s your mindset with that?
Yeah, I definitely thought about that. I just have to play my game.
I’m sure you’ve had people try to come at you and get into your life. 
It happens.
But you’ve been able to keep them out?
I have so far, yeah. I just try to keep my circle tight. I don’t know what to say.
All right, can you talk about keeping your circle tight?
Oh, yeah, one of my good friends Jarnell Stokes told me on the USA trip all about that. He told me that I had to keep my circle tight. He said you don’t know who’s watching you and who’s trying to come at you.
I think that’s very important.
Yeah, that’s the way I feel too. It’s definitely going to be my family and I don’t know much from there. 
And lastly, about Julius Randle, can you give the audience a scouting report about him and what was it like to play along side him?
 He’s like a 6’9” point guard. He’s huge, he can get in the lane whenever he wants to. He’s a great player. He can shoot it, he can dribble, he can do whatever. I love playing with him. He makes me better every single time. He raises your game. 
Who would you say is the best player you’ve had to guard so far or hardest guy to guard?
Probably Julius Randle or..no, it’s definitely Julius Randle. 
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