As career draws to close, Robert Hubbs III reflects

Robert Hubbs III chats inside Thompson-Boling Arena before practice.

Knoxville (WATE) – By which do we define an experience? It’s conclusion? Or it’s totality? Any way you slice it– it’s been a roundabout ride for Robert Hubbs the III.

“Yes, I’ve been through a lot,” Hubbs admits. “But I’ve made it here.”

The here is the final days of his Tennessee career, one which saw the quiet, respectful kid from Newbern, Tennessee grow up into a leader.

“He wants to do everything he can to lead these young guys, and say, ‘hey’ when things aren’t going well you gotta dig in,” says his coach Rick Barnes.

In 2012, the five-star recruit committed to then Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin, and played just twelve games for Martin before shoulder surgery ended his campaign. After that first year, a run to the Sweet 16, Martin left for Cal. Hubbs opted to stay. In Martin’s place came Donnie Tyndall, who wasn’t long for Tennessee (just one season) after NCAA violations at Southern Mississippi caught up with him. Again, Hubbs stayed.

“I was just one of those guys who didn’t want to run from anything. I think about that every day. Had I left, how would I become as a player?”

On his third coaching staff in three years, Hubbs found stability.

At a January 11th, 2016 press conference, with Hubbs in the back of the room waiting to speak with the media, Barnes was asked about the then-junior.

“I mean I know he’s here somewhere,” Barnes said, eyes wandering the room. “And I hope he can hear every word I’m saying. He’s got to play harder. God’s given him some great ability, and he hasn’t gotten nearly as close as he needs to be with it. I know he’s here, I know he’s listening to me, so I’m really talking to him right now.”

“Everything he says,” Hubbs says about his coach. “I use it as motivation to continue to get better.”

He saved his best for last. This year, Hubbs has averaged a career high in points, shooting percentage (both field goals and free throws), rebounds, assists, and steals. It hasn’t always resulted in wins– but the great moments, like the two home wins against Kentucky (Hubbs’ favorite moments in Thompson-Boling) have been just that.

“I’ve heard him say to other players, I wish I had this for all four years,” Barnes said. “And that means more to me than he’ll ever know.”

Battling nagging injuries behind closed doors, in late February, he became just the 48th player in the history of the program to eclipse 1,000 career points. In early March, he was named Second Team All-SEC, his first all conference nod of his career.

“I would say he’s persevered. When I first got here I wanted so much more out of him,” Barnes said. “I think he gave us everything he had. Because again, he’s fought some injuries. He really has. And what he’s fought through this past month, it shows you his love for this University if really special.”

So how do we define his experience?

“I gave everything I’ve got to this University. I left everything on the floor. Just staying through it.. it’s really developed my game and brought the man out of me. I can fight through anything if I put my mind to it.”

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