They have yet to suit up for a college basketball game but Tennessee freshmen Robert Hubbs, Darius Thompson and A.J. Davis already have made a name for themselves.
“They’ve got us doing everything together,” Hubbs said Monday night, “so we’re like the Three Amigos.”
Unlike the movie of the same name, Hubbs, Thompson and Davis opened to a small crowd. Only a few hundred fans showed up at Christian Academy of Knoxville for opening night of the Rocky Top Summer League.
Their debut performances in front of Big Orange fans, not surprisingly, were a bit uneven. There were some flashes of brilliance and there were some moments when they looked the way you’d expect recent high school graduates to look playing against college and post-college players in a summer-league setting.
Hubbs, a five-star recruit from across the state in Newbern, scored 19 points but sank just 7 of 24 shots, including 3 of 13 from 3-point range. Apparently pressing a bit, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard failed to finish several nifty drives.
“The first time I was a little jittery coming up here and playing,” he admitted. “I struggled for a little bit but I hit a couple of shots at the end. I’m going to do better Wednesday (when league action resumes).”
Like AAU hoops, summer league basketball consists mostly of guards launching 3-pointers or weaving through traffic to the basket. There isn’t much structure or teamwork but Hubbs declined to blame his shooting performance on that adjustment.
“Not really,” he said. “You just come out here having fun playing basketball.”
Moments before tipoff of his game, Hubbs said his objective in the Rocky Top League this summer is simple.
“To shoot as many shots as possible,” he said, smiling smugly. “That, and win, get better and put on a show for the fans.”
After sinking just four of his first 19 field-goal attempts, Hubbs made a spinning six-footer from the lane, then drained a 3-pointer that had to carry at least 25 feet. After missing a couple of shots, he drained a clutch 3-pointer that pulled his Next Level team within 95-87 just inside the final minute. Down 97-87 to Choice Spine with mere seconds remaining, he missed an uncontested windmill dunk.
It wasn’t the debut he’d hoped for but the low-key Hubbs isn’t worried about living up to his five-star billing.
“I just go out there and play my game,” he said. “That’s all you can do. You can’t go out there and worry about what people say about you. You just go out there and play basketball.”
Davis also struggled with his shot Monday night. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound three-star forward from Buford, Ga., made 2 of 10 field-goal tries (1 of 4 on 3-pointers) and 4 of 5 foul shots en route to 9 points.
“I played all right,” he said when asked about his performance. “As long as I play hard – try to rebound, play defense – I’m not too wrapped up in my scoring. At Tennessee we’ve got great scorers, so that’s not really a big role that I’m looking forward to. I’m just trying to get out here, play hard and play defense.”
Whereas Hubbs and Davis struggled with their marksmanship, Thompson brought his stroke with him Monday night. The 6-foot-4 three-star point guard from Murfreesboro hit 8 of 17 floor shots, including 5 of 12 from behind the arc.
Interviewed before his game, Thompson indicated that the Three Amigos are a relatively new trio.
“I didn’t know them really at all until I met Robert at the state tournament,” he said. “We was both in the running for Mr. Basketball. Really, that was the only time I met him.”
Hubbs was so impressed, however, that he began lobbying via social media for Thompson to join him in Knoxville by pledging to the Vols during the spring signing period. That wound up being a deciding factor.
“That helped a lot,” Thompson said. “It really helped, knowing that other people were going to be there that wanted me to be with them.”
Now that he, Hubbs and Davis are attending summer school, they’re spending considerable time together and developing quite a bond.
“We stay in the same room here,” Thompson said. “We’re bonding our brotherhood right now.”
ROCKY TOP NOTES: Rawane Ndiaye may be better than advertised. Tennessee’s 6-foot-10, 260-pound junior college transfer hit 6 of 9 shots and 2 of 3 foul shots en route to 14 points in helping Campus Lights to a 124-99 victory. “Pops” averaged just 2.5 points per game as a reserve for Indian Hills Community College in Iowa last winter but exhibited a decent low-post game, including a nifty half hook. He has not completed Tennessee’s so-called “media training” and was not permitted to meet with the press Monday night…. The most eye-popping performance of Monday night’s opening session was turned in by former Vol commitment Josh Selby. Selby, who reneged and ultimately signed with Kansas, sank 15 of 30 field-goal tries, including 8 of 18 from 3-point range. He also made 12 of 13 foul shots and totaled 50 points in helping The Knoxville News-Sentinel nip DeRoyal Industries 109-105. Ex-Vol Wayne Chism added 29 points for KNS. Current Vol D’Montre Edwards scored 29 points and former Vol Bobby Maze 28 for DeRoyal…. Current Vol Jordan McRae, who set the Rocky Top League single-game scoring record of 64 points last summer, opened his season with 37 points as Campus Lights routed Rice GMC 124-99. McRae was 15 of 22 from the field, including 2 of 7 from 3. He also made 5 of 6 foul shots. Former Knoxville Central High School point guard Dre Mathieu, who recently signed with Minnesota after a standout juco season in 2012-13, added 16 points. Tennessee did not recruit Mathieu, despite being short a point guard after the spring dismissal of Trae Golden. Current Vol Josh Richardson scored 32 points to lead Rice. He was 14 of 26 from the field, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range. He also made 1 of 2 foul shots.