Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin loves the St. Louis Cardinals.
Remember the summer of 1998 when Mark McGwire was clobbering home runs? There was a euphoria associated with Big Mac and an excitement that ensued. On Monday, Martin was probably reliving some of that excitement after hitting his own home run in recruiting, reeling in one of the nation's top scorers in ESPN’s No. 35 overall senior Robert Hubbs (Newbern, Tenn./Dyer County). Hubbs had choices ranging from Duke to Arkansas to Missouri and most places in between, but Tennessee made the case that it needed him the most.
ESPN’s “Gameday” crew was in Knoxville over the weekend, as was Hubbs and senior Jonathan Williams III (Memphis, Tenn./Southwind). Simply stated, it was the most important visit during Martin’s tenure at Tennessee. Hubbs is a no-nonsense potential elite talent. He’s ascended from outside the ESPN 100, into the top 75 and currently sits at No. 35. He’s trending in the right direction, in a trajectory similar to Otto Porter in his senior year.
Hubbs stands at 6-foot-6, can score and owns range on his jumper. His best days are ahead of him. His pledge was one the Vols coveted, and by coveted, I mean really, really needed and wanted to land.
When Martin took over, some wondered if he’d be able to recruit in the SEC. Martin’s a blue collar, self-made college basketball coach cast in the same mold he was as a player for Purdue. He’s not flashy, isn’t into self-promotion and he stands out in this new generation of recruit, recruit, recruit. Martin is a good recruiter but he’s meat and potatoes. If center Jarnell Stokes was the foundation, Hubbs is the second story in Knoxville.
Don’t be surprised if the Vols add another floor to the building this fall. Williams is the No. 34 overall prospect in the senior class and his take from last weekend’s visit underscores the blue-collar mentality Martin is selling recruits. “The coaches worked really hard to get where they’re at in life,” Williams said.
Williams has visited Tennessee, Missouri and Georgetown and will make trips to Michigan State and Texas in the coming weeks.
The SEC is loaded with high-profile recruits and big name coaches that command the headlines and rightfully so. Then there’s Martin, ironically clad in bright orange but one of the least flashy guys in the league. He’s more Sears than Saks Fifth Avenue and, he’s proving that works just fine in Knoxville.