Vols play Exhibition No. 2

InsideTennessee gives you the stories behind the stories on Vol hoops. Check out this one on the most celebrated member of UT's freshman basketball class:

Most people will never feel the pressure of being a five-star basketball recruit. Tennessee freshman Robert Hubbs III doesn't feel it either, even though he is one.

Rated the No. 2 shooting guard and No. 20 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by FOX Sports and Scout, Hubbs makes his second public appearance as a Vol Thursday at 7, when the Big Orange hosts Southern Indiana in its final exhibition game. Odds are, he'll play with poise and confidence … as he did last Saturday in Exhibition No. 1.

Despite the lofty expectations fans have for him, Hubbs showed no nerves whatsoever in his college debut. He dunked the first time he got the ball, then showed the depth of his offensive repertoire by scoring on an assortment of drives, mid-range jumpers and 3-point bombs. He finished 7 of 12 from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range, scoring 17 points in 29 relief minutes.

Fellow freshman A.J. Davis wasn't surprised. He knows that the 6-foot-6 Hubbs has a blend of athleticism and shooting touch that is rare.

"Robert is a great scorer … to be that athletic but to still understand the game, to be able to shoot the ball like that," Davis said. "He takes great shots, too. He knows when to take his, where his shots are going to come from. He's just a smart basketball player, super athletic. It didn't really surprise me; he's a great basketball player, a great scorer."

Getting a dunk right off the bat helped settle any nerves Hubbs might have had in his debut appearance before the home fans.

"It felt good," he said. "At first, I was a little nervous. My teammates came over to me to get me involved, talk to me, and encouraged me to let the game come to me. I just went on from there. Usually when I get a dunk, it gets my rhythm going fast."

Although he says he felt no pressure to live up his hype, Hubbs admitted that playing well in his Volunteer debut was rewarding.

"It means a lot," he said. "I wanted to go out and do the best that I can. I gave it all I can but I still have some little things on the defensive side that I need to get better at."

Like most freshmen, Hubbs has a lot to learn about playing defense at the college level. He was reminded of this by head coach Cuonzo Martin following the exhibition opener.

"I knew it was coming from Coach Martin," Hubbs said with a smile. "He talked about it, and we're going to watch film to get it corrected."

Although Hubbs has been practicing well, he admits that the atmosphere in a real college game – even an exhibition – is another world entirely.

"It feels a lot different," he said. "You have fans and the lights in this big arena. I think I adjusted to it well, though."

As chief backup to Vol wings Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson, Hubbs finds himself coming off the bench these days. That's a new experience for a guy who started virtually every game at Dyer County High School in Newbern the past three years.

"It wasn't difficult," Hubbs said of his new role. "That's how I started off my high school career as a freshman. I will do it again. It isn't a big deal. Darius Thompson got his opportunity, and he made the most of it. I did what I had to do."

Tennessee played an awful first half in its exhibition opener against Florida Southern, committing 11 turnovers en route to a mere 47-43 halftime lead. The Vols jelled in the second half, however, and pulled away for a 105-80 romp. Hubbs believes the players learned from that experience.

"In the first half, we were trying to force the ball down low," he said. "I know for myself, I was trying to get Jarnell (Stokes) and Jeronne (Maymon) involved early. In the second half, we started to move the ball around. That opens up the game for everyone."

Particularly the five-star freshman who seems oblivious to pressure.


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