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Friday, July 15, 2011
Anthony Hubbard spurns Iowa after all

By Eamonn Brennan

If you don't recall the ballad of Anthony Hubbard, start here. The short version is as follows: At the age of 18, Hubbard committed armed robbery with a group of friends, a crime that sent him to prison for four years. After he served his sentence, Hubbard discovered his basketball ability -- he didn't even play in high school -- ability that eventually landed him at Frederick Community College, where he has shone on the floor ever since.

That ability led college coaches to come calling, but it's not exactly easy to recruit a 26-year-old felon to your program. A fair amount of hesitation is par for the course. So Iowa coach Fran McCaffery tentatively reached out. He did some homework. He spoke to Hubbard's coaches. He learned of Hubbard's work with disaffected youth and his attempts to rectify the mistakes he made as a lookout driver for an armed robbery and home invasion. He met with Hubbard in Iowa City.

After it all, McCaffery came away convinced Anthony Hubbard had changed, that his life was on the right track, and that he was "somebody we'd like to have in our program," as he said in April.

The feeling is no longer mutual. According to a release from Iowa athletics, Hubbard has decided he wants to find a college destination closer to his current home at Frederick Community College in Frederick, Md. From the release:
"Obviously, we're disappointed. We invested a substantial amount of time and energy in the recruitment of Anthony. The positive is that we learn today of Anthony's decision versus learning of it in August or September," said UI men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery. [...]

"I am disappointed for Fran, our staff and the other staff on our campus that were involved from the start on what was clearly a very unique recruiting process. It's unfortunate it hasn't worked out as we had hoped. We, of course, wish Anthony the very best," said Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta.

If we had to guess, "disappointed" is a very diplomatic, restrained way of saying "absolutely furious." Coaches hate losing players to transfers; it amounts to a huge waste of resources and time. They especially hate losing talented contributors, and Hubbard was projected to be one of those, too.

In this case especially, however, those resources and time -- the effort and energy spent shepherding Hubbard through the letter of intent process at Iowa, the interfacing with various university and athletics officials, the extensive background checks and meetings, the vouching for character, all of it -- was all done in vain. Hubbard's decision doesn't invalidate his character, but it is a stomach-punch level bummer for a program that just spent much of its summer on a risky proposition.

In the end, Iowa deserves a lot of credit here. Not only was it willing to give Hubbard a shot, but it greeted this decision with a fair amount of class. The Hawkeyes have placed no restrictions on Hubbard's potential transfer destinations, nor have they acted to stall the process or prevent the player from leaving. Instead, Iowa took its licks, let Hubbard do what he felt was best for him and moved on. That's as praiseworthy as the original story and arguably no less difficult.