Robert Hubbs, Darius Thompson, A.J. Davis becoming Tennessee's 'Three Amigos'

Incoming UT freshmen make Knoxville debuts in Rocky Top League

Photos by Wade Payne/Special to the News Sentinel
DeRoyal’s Bobby Maze, left, passes the ball as he’s defended by the News Sentinel’s Brandon Lopez during the first game of the Rocky Top League season Tuesday at Christian Academy of Knoxville. The News Sentinel won 109-105.

Photo by Wade Payne

Photos by Wade Payne/Special to the News Sentinel DeRoyal’s Bobby Maze, left, passes the ball as he’s defended by the News Sentinel’s Brandon Lopez during the first game of the Rocky Top League season Tuesday at Christian Academy of Knoxville. The News Sentinel won 109-105.

There’s no more need for nametags. Tennessee’s basketball freshmen have moved past that stage.

“We’re starting our brotherhood,’’ Darius Thompson said Monday night as the Rocky Top League got underway in the relative cool of Christian Academy of Knoxville’s gym.

Thompson, A.J. Davis and Robert Hubbs made their Knoxville hoops debuts, although in three different games.

Thompson scored 21 points on an array of shots and moves as Rice Buick fell to Campus Lights, 124-99.

Davis scored nine in DeRoyal’s 109-105 loss to the News Sentinel.

“They’ve got us doing everything together,’’ said Hubbs, who had 19 points in Next Level’s 97-87 loss to Choice Spine, “so we’re like the Three Amigos.’’

Junior college transfer Pops Ndiaye also played in a mélange that featured current Vols, past Vols, an assortment of area small-college players and the odd hoops celebrity like Josh Selby.

Davis, Thompson and Hubbs were more or less strangers during the recruiting and signing phase of their transition from high school to college.

“I met Robert at the state tournament because we were both in the running for Mr. Basketball,’’ Thompson said. “That was the only time I met him.’’

But Thompson admitted Hubbs’ Twitter outreach was instrumental in his decision to back off his commitment to Vanderbilt and choose UT in the spring signing period.

“It really helped knowing that other people are gonna be there,’’ Thompson said.

Hubbs is from Dyer County in far West Tennessee. Thompson prepped at Murfreesboro Blackman. Davis is from Georgia.

“We started talking once we all committed,’’ Davis said. “As soon as we came up here, we’re all good friends now.

“We work out together every day. We’re doing something together every day.’’

They’re all still waiting to meet the final member of their signing class, Antonio Barton, the University of Memphis point guard who is graduating and transferring with immediate eligibility.

Thompson, the point guard in the group, figured he would be mentored by senior Trae Golden. Then Golden’s surprise exit was closely followed by news of Barton’s transfer.

“It’s gonna help me a lot,’’ said Thompson. “A senior guard, I’m gonna be under his wing, really.’’

The freshmen are saying all the right things as far as expectations and intentions, namely that they’ll do whatever it takes to make the team better — rebounding, passing, defense. Scoring, too, if it comes to that.

Jordan McRae, UT’s All-SEC senior guard, confirmed a good first impression from what he’s seen since the newcomers arrived for summer school.

“This is a good group we have,’’ McRae said. “All their dads are really involved in basketball coaching at some point, so they know the game pretty well.

“It definitely helps. There are some things we tell ’em on the court and you only have to tell ’em once and they immediately understand it.’’

News Sentinel 109, DeRoyal 105: Selby, a former UT commitment, Kansas Jayhawk and current NBA D-League player, poured in 50 for the winners. Wayne Chism added 29.

UT senior D’Montre Edwards led DeRoyal with 29, followed by 28 from a late-arriving Bobby Maze.

Campus Lights 124, Rice Buick 99: Illinois State signee Daishon Knight scored 39, McRae added 37 and Minnesota signee and ex-Central High School player Dre Mathieu added 15 for the winners. Ndiaye chipped in 14.

UT guard Josh Richardson’s 32 paced Rice, which played without fellow Vol Armani Moore.

Choice Spine 97, Next Level 87: Quincy Scates of Tennessee Wesleyan scored 24 and Jonathan Adams of Old Dominion 20 for the winners.

Lester Wilson of ETSU and Ryan Westbrooks of Lee had 24 each for Next Level, with Hubbs adding 19.

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Comments » 18

BruisedOrange writes:

Any game stats on assists? Steals?

Probably too many to count, huh.

Ahh, just being cranky this morning. There really is long-term value in seeing what your teammates do well, what their preferences and instincts are, all those intangibles that eventually coalesce into "team chemistry."

mocsandvolsfan writes:

hehe LOT's of "intangibles' I reckon. One would be their ability to get along and that at least is happening. I hope Barton fits in too. He DID have a huge impact on our loss to Memphis last year. I'm guessing he'll start here but who knows? It's an "intangible". I sorta like that word early in the morning.

I wish I could see these famous free for all games in the summer.

I also wonder why Moore didn't play?

SneakyPete writes:

“This is a good group we have,’’ McRae said. “All their dads are really involved in basketball coaching at some point, so they know the game pretty well."

The most important thing here is they had/have their dads in their lives. As an African American male, and father of three grown men, I've found that coaching fathers become mentors for many who are not blood kin...thereby filling a much needed void.

miketn6 writes:

I missed the first game that Davis played in.
Thompson is thin and looks really young, but he also looks pretty good. His contribution will grow over time.
I watched the first half of Hubbs' game, and while he was sort of feeling his way into it, he is super-athletic. Once he gets comfortable, Hubbs has stud potential, but he needs to work on the mid range jumper.

McRae is ready to go, and his progression over 4 years has been amazing. He can play.

underthehill writes:

in response to miketn6:

I missed the first game that Davis played in.
Thompson is thin and looks really young, but he also looks pretty good. His contribution will grow over time.
I watched the first half of Hubbs' game, and while he was sort of feeling his way into it, he is super-athletic. Once he gets comfortable, Hubbs has stud potential, but he needs to work on the mid range jumper.

McRae is ready to go, and his progression over 4 years has been amazing. He can play.

How about Edwards..he must've been impressive..I thought he showed signs of being an excellent offensive player last year..must've been his defense that kept him on the bench..

Hoops43 writes:

Moore turned his ankle during morning workouts at UT. Thompson looked the best of the incoming freshman. Pops is a LOAD!

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to miketn6:

I missed the first game that Davis played in.
Thompson is thin and looks really young, but he also looks pretty good. His contribution will grow over time.
I watched the first half of Hubbs' game, and while he was sort of feeling his way into it, he is super-athletic. Once he gets comfortable, Hubbs has stud potential, but he needs to work on the mid range jumper.

McRae is ready to go, and his progression over 4 years has been amazing. He can play.

Ahhh, yes... the mid-range jumper.

Back in the day, my favorite shot--pretty as Sweet Lou Hudson's.

Now it's the "sasquatch" of basketball skills: much discussed, believed in by most people, yet seldom seen except in grainy, '70s film footage and low-res phone videos taken by freelance recruiters in backwater gymnasiums.

With nostalgic sadness I expect we'll see "long-range teardrops" before we see a return of the mid-range jumper into the standard player's arsenal.

In fairness, the way current offenses divide the floor and distribute defenders, the mid-ranger has been relegated to big men forced out-of-position and fast breaks well-defended. To the teardrop's credit, it avoids the inner-ear issues that fast-break mid-range pull-up jumpers must contend with.

So how did Gail Goodrich make it look so easy?

EarthBoundMisfit writes:

I wouldn't be surprised to see Thompson starting by mid-season.
Barton has to be wary of injuries...his last two seasons at Memphis he was injured a significant portion of time.

bobbyal52#1417564 writes:

depth and talent!Go coach Zo

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SneakyPete:

“This is a good group we have,’’ McRae said. “All their dads are really involved in basketball coaching at some point, so they know the game pretty well."

The most important thing here is they had/have their dads in their lives. As an African American male, and father of three grown men, I've found that coaching fathers become mentors for many who are not blood kin...thereby filling a much needed void.

That is one of the things I like best about Martin. His personal example, strong values, and concern for the whole person make him the kind of man any parents can trust with their kids. His physical presence and competitive background give him an immediate boost in respect from young people. These three guys may not need as much of that from Martin as some others might, but they at least have some experience being around such a man, and perhaps might be more willing to trust him.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to underthehill:

How about Edwards..he must've been impressive..I thought he showed signs of being an excellent offensive player last year..must've been his defense that kept him on the bench..

I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I just had the sense watching Edwards last year that he was just somehow "out of step" on the court with the other guys. Figuratively, it was like he was always zigging while the others were zagging. He sometimes seemed to shoot too quick, as if he was surprising himself when he put one up. I was constantly amazed at how positive Edwards always seemed to be on the bench, where he usually was during the games, so I don't think he is a morale problem for the team. He has the build of an NBA 2/3 man, so there shouldn't be any question of his physical ability, but he somehow hasn't been able to produce with it to this point. I would love for him to become the kind of player some of us hoped he would be when he was signed.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Hoops43:

Moore turned his ankle during morning workouts at UT. Thompson looked the best of the incoming freshman. Pops is a LOAD!

Tell us more about Pops Ndiaye. His signing was a "bolt from the blue" for most of us, especially after we saw his JC stats! I have always said that it is never a mistake to get a 7-footer when you can, no matter how raw, because you never know when he will "get it" and when he does you will have the kind of post power most teams need to win it all. So what are some reasonable hopes from Vol fans for Ndiaye?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

Ahhh, yes... the mid-range jumper.

Back in the day, my favorite shot--pretty as Sweet Lou Hudson's.

Now it's the "sasquatch" of basketball skills: much discussed, believed in by most people, yet seldom seen except in grainy, '70s film footage and low-res phone videos taken by freelance recruiters in backwater gymnasiums.

With nostalgic sadness I expect we'll see "long-range teardrops" before we see a return of the mid-range jumper into the standard player's arsenal.

In fairness, the way current offenses divide the floor and distribute defenders, the mid-ranger has been relegated to big men forced out-of-position and fast breaks well-defended. To the teardrop's credit, it avoids the inner-ear issues that fast-break mid-range pull-up jumpers must contend with.

So how did Gail Goodrich make it look so easy?

Great post! My sentiments exactly! Indulge me: A decent free-throw shooter ought to make more than 70%. A perimeter jumper is distinguished from a free throw only by the fact that shooter usually leaves his feet on the shot more in the former case than the latter. There is no reason why any player who shoots 70% or better from the FT line can't shoot perimeter jumpers at 60% or better. Don't tell me about the defense. If you're covered, you probably shouldn't shoot; if you're open, there is no excuse for not knocking it down, except for being too dumb or lazy to practice it enough.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Tell us more about Pops Ndiaye. His signing was a "bolt from the blue" for most of us, especially after we saw his JC stats! I have always said that it is never a mistake to get a 7-footer when you can, no matter how raw, because you never know when he will "get it" and when he does you will have the kind of post power most teams need to win it all. So what are some reasonable hopes from Vol fans for Ndiaye?

Well. I can't answer you and I hope someone else does.

UTC used to have a 7 footer and they still didn't win many games. But I suspect coaching was the problem there. So did the higher ups.

We're mostly depending on Stokes I guess for our inside game with Maymon as another hopeful at this point.

It still looks really good inside to me. I'm very happy Stokes stayed and that Maymon is on his way back. I'm also glad we got a big in Ndiaye that's had at least some experience playing.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Well. I can't answer you and I hope someone else does.

UTC used to have a 7 footer and they still didn't win many games. But I suspect coaching was the problem there. So did the higher ups.

We're mostly depending on Stokes I guess for our inside game with Maymon as another hopeful at this point.

It still looks really good inside to me. I'm very happy Stokes stayed and that Maymon is on his way back. I'm also glad we got a big in Ndiaye that's had at least some experience playing.

Well, clearly, not EVERY big guy is successful at basketball. Some people just don't have the basic coordination, both with their feet and with their hand-eye ability, to become good basketball players no matter how hard they work or how good their coaching is. The intriguing thing about Ndiaye is that he is almost completely unknown as a player, so I certainly don't know whether he has the basic ability or not. But if he DOES turn into a player, it will be something of a bonus, IMHO.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Well, clearly, not EVERY big guy is successful at basketball. Some people just don't have the basic coordination, both with their feet and with their hand-eye ability, to become good basketball players no matter how hard they work or how good their coaching is. The intriguing thing about Ndiaye is that he is almost completely unknown as a player, so I certainly don't know whether he has the basic ability or not. But if he DOES turn into a player, it will be something of a bonus, IMHO.

Well now they actually featured Ndiaye in a video and told a few things in an article. WTG KNS and UTsports. It was interesting to hear that he was injured most of his time at Indian Hills. I like that the coaches told him to rebound too.
He'll be a presence at least.

murrayvol writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

Ahhh, yes... the mid-range jumper.

Back in the day, my favorite shot--pretty as Sweet Lou Hudson's.

Now it's the "sasquatch" of basketball skills: much discussed, believed in by most people, yet seldom seen except in grainy, '70s film footage and low-res phone videos taken by freelance recruiters in backwater gymnasiums.

With nostalgic sadness I expect we'll see "long-range teardrops" before we see a return of the mid-range jumper into the standard player's arsenal.

In fairness, the way current offenses divide the floor and distribute defenders, the mid-ranger has been relegated to big men forced out-of-position and fast breaks well-defended. To the teardrop's credit, it avoids the inner-ear issues that fast-break mid-range pull-up jumpers must contend with.

So how did Gail Goodrich make it look so easy?

Sad thing, the loss of the "mid-range jumper. Most defenses are designed to protect the perimeter and the rim. Mid-ranger is almost always available. So few take advantage.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Tell us more about Pops Ndiaye. His signing was a "bolt from the blue" for most of us, especially after we saw his JC stats! I have always said that it is never a mistake to get a 7-footer when you can, no matter how raw, because you never know when he will "get it" and when he does you will have the kind of post power most teams need to win it all. So what are some reasonable hopes from Vol fans for Ndiaye?

It took Tom Boerwinkle awhile to "get it" but it led to a great senior season and a very productive NBA career

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