Like a flat-footed defender, Robert Hubbs III caught Robert Hubbs II off guard on Sunday night.
The younger, one of the nation’s top basketball recruits, told the elder, a dual-role father and assistant coach on his son’s Dyer County High School team, that he was committing to the University of Tennessee.
“I asked him, ‘What about Kentucky? You haven’t visited yet,’ ” Hubbs Sr. recalled Monday morning. “He said, ‘Dad, I love Tennessee.’ ”
Hubbs Sr. told Hubbs Jr. to sleep on it.
A few hours of shuteye made no difference.
The 2013 McDonald’s All-American candidate capped UT coach Cuonzo Martin’s 18-month courtship with a verbal commitment.
“It was the little things (Martin) did,” Hubbs Sr. said. “He sent my wife and my mother a handwritten Mother’s Day card. The little things you do catch the eyes of a lot of people and it really caught my son’s eyes.”
As a result, Hubbs Jr., a five-star recruit on Rivals.com and the 12th-ranked player in the Class of 2013 by 247Sports, is the second major recruiting coup of Martin’s UT tenure. He was joined late Monday night by Buford (Ga.) High School senior A.J. Davis.
“(Hubbs) is a guy that’s distinguished himself steadily as one of the best players in the country,” ESPN senior recruiting analyst Dave Telep told the News Sentinel on Monday.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard picked the Vols over Duke, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Auburn, his father said. Unofficial visits were made to Auburn, Missouri, Memphis and Mississippi State.
Having committed Monday morning, Hubbs Jr. cancelled this week’s upcoming in-home visits with Kentucky, UCLA and Vanderbilt.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski visited Hubbs’ tiny hometown of Dyersburg last week.
So did Martin.
“I’m not saying other coaches didn’t say the right thing, but Martin did the most homework,” Hubbs Sr. said. “The home visit went really well. He just blends in with our family.”
Now the Vols will reap the benefits in 2013-14. Hubbs Jr. was ready to commit after taking an official visit to Knoxville for Saturday’s showdown at Neyland Stadium between Tennessee and Florida.
Hubbs, 17, becomes the second five-star recruit to sign with Tennessee in nine months, joining current sophomore Jarnell Stokes. Martin began recruiting both soon after accepting the head-coaching position in March 2011.
“Cuonzo and his staff are just relentless,” said Dyer County coach Derek McCord. “From day one, they were putting all their eggs in one basket with Robert at his position.”
Telep said that Hubbs can “grow into being a guy that carries the load as a scorer” and has “a great frame in terms of size and skill level and legit range from behind the arc.”
McCord said that at just over 6-5, Hubbs might still grow another 2 or 3 inches, but needs to add some bulk for SEC play.
“It’s a scary thought if he gets bigger and stronger,” he added.
Hubbs averaged 20.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last season, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.
His morning commitment served as a prelude to Davis’ pledge. The 6-foot-8 son of NBA veteran Antonio Davis, rated three stars on Rivals, announced his decision on Twitter.
The Vols now have one remaining available scholarship for 2013. Targets include Southwind High’s Johnathan Williams III and Briarcrest Christian School forward Austin Nichols.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn