College Basketball Nation: Anthony Hubbard

Anthony Hubbard lands at Morgan State

September, 3, 2011
Anthony Hubbard will get his second chance from a coach who knows all about second chances.

Iowa had taken a chance on signing Hubbard before abruptly releasing the junior college transfer and 26-year-old ex-felon from his national letter of intent in July so he could attend school closer to his Virginia home.

Now according to the Des Moines Register, Hubbard has enrolled at Morgan State to play for coach Todd Bozeman, who received an eight-year show-cause penalty for paying the parents of a Cal player before landing his current job.
"Everybody I talked to told me Anthony was a good kid," Bozeman said. "People make mistakes in life. Some of us get more attention than others. But everybody deserves to move on. I made a mistake in my professional career, got another chance and made the most of it."


Bozeman had a question of his own: How is Hubbard [in deciding to leave Iowa] any different from all the coaches who change jobs?

"How's that different from Dana Altman going to Arkansas and coming back to Creighton? People change their minds."

Bozeman told the paper he didn't have any indication that Hubbard was forced out at Iowa, but the circumstances of the departure remain unclear.

The Hawkeyes have not said much about Hubbard's departure since announcing his release, with coach Fran McCaffery saying it was the player's decision. The team had explored Hubbard's background before signing someone who had served nearly four years in prison after being convicted in connection with a 2003 home robbery.

Athletic director Gary Barta has since said Hubbard did not have added restrictions while at Iowa without confirming or denying whether the 6-foot-5 guard was dismissed.

McCaffery told the Des Moines Register last week that he wished Hubbard the best at Morgan State.
"Things happen in recruiting," McCaffery said. "I don't take anything personally. I still think the world of the kid. I think he’s going to be great. I hope he gets his degree, has two good years and then hopefully plays some professional basketball."

McCaffery discounted speculation that Hubbard was told to leave because he didn’t fulfill a set of standards put in place for him after he signed.

"He decided to transfer," McCaffery said. "That was it."
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.