The prospect wasn't a Class of 2011 recruit, however. He wasn't even a Class of 2012 recruit. Basically, one look convinced Martin that Robert Hubbs of Newbern's Dyer County High School needed to be the cornerstone of the Vols' 2013 signing class.
Sure enough, 27 months later, Hubbs is that cornerstone – a five-star recruit rated the No. 2 shooting guard and No. 20 overall prospect in America by FOX Sports NEXT.
So, what sold the defensive-minded Martin on the offensive-minded Hubbs?
"First and foremost, the talent," Martin said recently. "He's one of the first guys I saw when I took the job. We went out in the spring and summer (of 2011) and identified him right away as a very talented guy. He played all over (the floor), played hard and he scored the basketball.
"He's a tremendous athlete. You saw his length and his size, and you knew the potential … that if he kept doing what he was doing he had a chance to be special."
Martin's assessment proved accurate. By the spring of 2012 Hubbs was rated a four-star prospect and America's No. 77 overall recruit. After exploding on the AAU circuit last summer, the 6-foot-5 guard saw his reputation soar, achieving five-star status and a No. 19 overall rating last September.
Dyer County High School's head coach says scouts finally recognized what he had seen in Hubbs for years.
"There's a lot of athletes and there's a lot of shooters," Derek McCord said. "When you combine a shooter with tremendous athleticism that makes for a special player. When you have that you have the potential for greatness."
Apparently so. After averaging 20.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a junior, Hubbs discovered a new gear as a senior. He averaged 24.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists, with 47 blocked shots and 30 steals. He shot a sizzling 60.7 percent from the field, 72.4 percent from the foul line and 31.4 percent (38 of 121) from 3-point range.
Cuonzo Martin had his cornerstone.
McCord believes the Vol coach's dogged pursuit was the key to winning Hubbs' commitment.
"Coach Martin came on strong early, told us that Robert was the only shooting guard he was recruiting," McCord said. "That meant a lot to Robert. Coach Martin got in early and developed a good relationship. I think Robert felt the right fit with them. It's a program on the upswing, and I think he felt that excitement."
Tennessee fans feel excitement, too. They can't wait to see Hubbs, who is by far the most prolific scorer in Martin's first three signing classes.
"He's got the ability to score, so that's his role … to score the basketball," Martin said. "I saw him get 45 points one time (against Trumann, Ark.) only playing two and one-half quarters."
Given Martin's obsession with defense, Hubbs may need a significant upgrade in that area before he cracks the Vols' starting lineup. Then again, maybe not.
"Defensively, he just has to be at least respectable," Martin said. "I told Robert Hubbs if he comes in and he passes up shots he'll be sitting next to me on the bench. He's built to score."
Knowing Martin's passion for defense, Hubbs worked hard to improve in that area as a high school senior last winter.
"Defensively, he got a lot better," McCord said. "And his ball-handling improved. He's really good out of the pick and roll."
Ultimately, Hubbs is a player who demands the best of himself and brings out the best in his teammates.
"The thing about Robert is, Robert's a winner," McCord said. "He lost 12 games in four years of high school. There's a lot to be said for bringing in winners because winning's a habit, just like losing's a habit."
Hubbs, who won't turn 18 until Aug. 19, also is a mature young man for his age. He's not the type who will cut class or show up late for team meetings.
"He's a good kid, a quality guy," McCord said. "For Cuonzo, he'll be high-trust, low-maintenance."
That's just what Martin envisioned when he pegged Robert Hubbs as a top recruiting priority 27 months ago.