Grind. I kept hearing that word Monday night from Tennessee’s incoming basketball freshmen.
They certainly weren’t referring to the Rocky Top League, which presents its second session of rip-and-run basketball Wednesday night at CAK.
“I don’t think much ‘D’ is going on around here,’’ Robert Hubbs said Monday night, “but it’s a good time to show out in front of the fans and have fun.’’
They’ll show out in front of their real coach, Cuonzo Martin, by grinding. A couple of weeks on campus, they’ve already gotten the message.
“Hard work and grinding every day,’’ said Hubbs.
Is there an echo in here?
“Whatever Coach Martin tells us to do, we’re gonna work hard every day,’’ said Darius Thompson. “Grind.’’
Hubbs, Thompson and A.J. Davis comprise Martin’s most impressive freshman class in his three recruiting seasons at UT.
A fourth signee, junior college transfer Pops Ndiaye, also is playing at Rocky Top. The fifth newcomer, Antonio Barton, is finishing up his degree at the University of Memphis.
I mention grinding to say that UT’s newcomers understand what they signed on for. They get that Martin won’t roll the ball out there and say, “Go hang a hundred on ’em.’’
That’s for Rocky Top time, not Martin’s time.
If you come out to CAK, my suggestion is don’t form any opinions you’re not willing to adjust in January.
Davis, Thompson and Hubbs are all articulate. Physically, they look like freshmen. No Jarnell Stokes man-child in the bunch.
All three had an even-keeled demeanor on the court, probably indicative that their fathers were involved in not only their lives, but more specifically in their basketball lives. Davis’ dad played 13 years in the NBA. Hubbs’ pop is an assistant coach at DyerCounty High. Lonnie Thompson is the head coach at Cumberland University.
“He knows the game inside out,’’ said Robert Hubbs III of Robert Hubbs Jr., “and that’s why I’m here today.’’
That they’re here today is good news for Tennessee basketball fans who are getting impatient for a return to March Madness.
Martin’s first two classes included a number of projects. Aside from Josh Richardson, no freshman boasted a full portfolio of high-major offers.
Stokes, a five-star recruit, didn’t really fit into either class, arriving abruptly in January 2012.
Hubbs is a five-star shooting guard whom Martin landed the conventional way, out-scrapping heavyweights like Duke and Kentucky over the long haul.
It’s too early to project whether Thompson or Davis will ultimately be more productive than Derek Reese, Armani Moore or Quinton Chievous. Still, judging from their offers, they were wanted by the teams with whom Tennessee competes.
Georgia Tech, Auburn and Clemson wanted Davis. Vanderbilt, Alabama, Butler and N.C. State, among others, wanted Thompson. Everybody wanted Hubbs.
“We play different positions, that’s the best thing about it,’’ said Hubbs.
“Darius is a point guard, I’m a two or three and A.J. is like a three or four.’’
Three different positions. One common mission:
Grind Tennessee basketball back toward the top.
Mike Strange may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.