Cuonzo Martin has spent all of 18 months on the job at Tennessee, taking over a program that had lost their best players to the NBA after Bruce Pearl lost his job.
But it didn’t take long for him to turn things about in Knoxville. Tennessee finished tied for second in the conference last season, as Martin instilled a brand of hard-nosed, defensive-minded hoops, and are among the favorites to battle it out for first runner-up behind Kentucky again this season.
That initial success in the SEC should give Vol fans plenty of confidence heading into Martin’s second season on the job, because for the second time in just nine months, he’s landed a five-star recruit from the state of Tennessee.
This time it’s Robert Hubbs, a consensus top 20 recruit from Dyer County, TN. The 6-foot-4 Hubbs had a huge spring and summer, rocketing up recruiting rankings while collecting scholarship offers from the likes of Florida, Duke, Memphis and Missouri. Hubbs is a big-time scorer from the wing whose range has been lauded by scouts. He committed after a visit to Knoxville over the weekend.
Hubbs joins Jarnell Stokes as Tennessee natives that joined the Vol family. Stokes is a 6-foot-9 power forward from Memphis that enrolled at Tennessee half-a-year early last December. He’ll be a preseason all-SEC pick this season in what should have been his freshman year.
The fact that Martin was able to beat out some big name programs for Hubbs is important. There is some basketball talent in the state, especially in the city of Memphis (which is a couple of hours from where Hubbs attends high school), and the more that Martin can tap into that pipeline, the better it will be for the program.
It’s also worth noting that Hubbs plays for the M33M AAU team with Austin Nichols, a top 20 recruit that lives in Memphis.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.
Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.
Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.
The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.
John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.
We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.
For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.
Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.
As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.