Monday was a huge day in Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin’s quest to return the program to the levels it reached before former coach Bruce Pearl’s downfall after the 2010-11 season.
In the morning, the Vols accepted a commitment from five-star recruit Robert Hubbs, a 6-foot-5 (and growing) shooting guard from Dyer County High School in Newbern, Tenn. Later that day, A.J. Davis, a 6-8 (and growing) multi-position player from Buford (Ga.) High School also committed. Judging by message board posts, Tweets, Facebook likes and other Internet-driven modes of fan-boy interaction, Davis’ commitment wasn’t as eagerly received.
But some talent evaluators who know what they’re talking about believe Davis, the son of former NBA player Antonio Davis, is capable of following in his father’s footsteps. Davis was rated a three-star prospect by Rivals and a two-star by ESPN, but he didn’t play for one of the bigger-time AAU programs and thus wasn’t as widely seen by the recruiting analysts. But he possesses a versatile game. Tennessee’s staff was interested in Davis because he can legitimately play either forward position and point guard.
Not to suggest that Davis is the next Magic Johnson, i.e. a legitimate point guard at 6-8, or 6-9, but he’s got skills. Martin can’t talk about recruits specifically, but he’s said many times over the last few months that he’s looking for skill, length and versatility. Davis fits that mold.
Hubbs, too, can play big guard or small forward, and he’s a killer of a scorer. Players who possess great leaping ability and a consistent jump shot are rare. Hubbs is one of those players. He attacks the rim and can dunk with ferocity. He’s also got deep range and good form on his jumper. Throw in a midrange game-which has become a dying art in the college game-and Hubs’ toolbox is loaded with scoring implements.
There was another benefit to Hubbs’ commitment. It stands to reason he’ll attract other talented players to Knoxville. Two from Memphis-five-star Austin Nichols of Briarcrest Christian and four-star Jonathan Williams III of Southwind-are still taking visits and considering their college choice, but Tennessee is among the leaders for both.
Vol fans may have already pondered the possibility. Tennessee, which has already gained a commitment from point guard Travon Landry, who’s from Madison, Ala. but is playing this season at Huntingon (W.Va.) Prep, has just one scholarship left to give. What if Nichols and Williams wanted to come to Tennessee?
That’s a problem Martin would love to have to try and figure out. But there are ways. Will Jarnell Stokes enter the 2013 NBA Draft? Might another player who gets squeezed out of Martin’s rotation this season, ala freshman Wes Washpun in 2011-12, become discouraged and transfer?
All things are possible.
But no one on Martin’s staff is thinking that far ahead. Williams still has to visit Michigan State and Texas. Nichols is being courted by Duke, among many others.
The next few weeks leading up to the November early signing period will be filled with intrigue. If certain decisions fall the Vols’ way, the program can be set up for success in the foreseeable future.