Before Robert Hubbs had a chance to wipe off the sweat building on his brow after Wednesday’s Rocky Top League action, four small children sprinted up to him in hopes of getting an autograph. While the rising junior — who just finished racking up 24 points on 9 of 18 shooting in his Tillman Co. team’s 142-128 win — signed their shirts and posters, he cracked a smile and struck up a cordial conversation with his idolizers.
Hubbs flashed his friendly side, the exact opposite persona he wants to have on the court when the whistle blows as he looks to become a more forceful presence for the Vols in his third year with the team.
“Just being more aggressive, just taking over the ball game when I need to,” Hubbs said of what he’s working on this summer. “Just any little thing to help my team. I’m putting in exercise, extra work in the weight room, anything that’s going to help me in the long run this year.”
The coaching carousel at Tennessee has been well documented, as the junior guard is preparing to play for his third head coach in three seasons. But the transition to the Rick Barnes era so far hasn’t seen any turbulence from Hubbs, a guy whose passion in the weight room and on the floor has already begun to pay dividends.
“Everything’s going real smoothly. We’re working out two times a day, three times a day, putting up shots,” Hubbs said. “It’s basketball. You have to love it. If you don’t love it, man, it’s going to kill you. Those who love it, we work hard at it each and every day and we’re just trying to get better.”
The Newbern, Tennessee, native logged playing time in every game with the Vols last season, averaging 7.2 points and 2.9 rebounds as his team clawed to a 16-16 record. Things won’t get much easier next season while Tennessee continues to cultivate depth, develop a consistent point guard and immerse the new signees in the rigors of Division I college basketball.
Hubbs is maintaining a central part in all of that. His veteran presence helps calm some of the fresh faces on the floor and he leads more by example than mouth. Barnes and company have noticed, and they remind him of what basketball can be at its core.
“Just go out there and play ball. Be relaxed. Play hard. Sprint the floor each and every time. Just get out there and have fun,” Hubbs said of the coaching advice he’s received. “We're trying to go out there and win it all. We go out there and compete each and every night and just do what we do.”
While the rising junior prepares for his third season in as many head coaches, he admits it wasn’t his dream scenario. But Hubbs isn’t one to question what life throws at him, and he’s taking it all in stride with a smile almost as big as the ones on the faces of his little fans Wednesday night.
“It’s been tough. Everything happens for a reason,” Hubbs said. “I really think God set this up perfectly for all of us. Everything’s going to work out fine. We’re going to be fine. We’re going to make a run this year.”