Iowa’s Hubbard opens up about experiences — and apple cobbler

BY SETH ROBERTS | JUNE 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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Anthony Hubbard really likes apple cobbler — so much so, that he was willing to travel almost 1,000 miles to be close to a good recipe.

At least that’s what he told reporters when asked why he committed to play basketball for Iowa.

“[Coach Fran McCaffery’s] wife [Margaret] makes this apple dessert,” he said with a smile, holding his hands out to indicate something about twice the size of a dinner plate. “On all my other visits, I didn’t get any desserts. She made this apple dessert, and I was like, ‘You know what? I can’t turn down apple dessert.’ ”

Even when the conversation turned serious, Hubbard looked comfortable sitting between McCaffery and Athletics Director Gary Barta at his introductory press conference on Wednesday.

Dressed in a robin’s egg-blue polo, the 26-year-old small forward from Woodbridge, Va., will have two years of eligibility after transferring from Frederick (Md.) Community College. He announced the decision in April.

Since then, Hubbard’s troubled past — he spent almost four years in prison for robbery as a teenager — has been well-documented. He didn’t shy away from any questions on Wednesday, though, and kept steady eye contact when delivering his answers.

“From prison, you learn to value the things that you didn’t necessarily value when you were in the free world,” he said. “I learned a lot of patience, because things don’t work on the same level as they do when you’re home with your family … I value being able to go to my niece’s graduation or my nephew’s graduation.

“Just small things, I’ve grown to love and respect.”

McCaffery said Hubbard’s honesty was very important during the recruiting, and he said he was impressed with the forward’s maturity and commitment to his family.

“One of the things he said to me … really resonated with me,” McCaffery said. “He said, ‘You know, I have 29 nieces and nephews, and they look up to me. I have an opportunity now to make that an incredibly positive experience for them.’ ”

Barta agreed, and said that, while he did a good amount of research on Hubbard, he thinks it’s time to give him a second chance.

“This is a situation that had occurred many years ago,” he said. “We kept learning about Anthony’s recommitment to education and recommitment to his life and changing other lives, [and] it was worth continuing the conversation.”

Hubbard said he knows some people — particularly opposing fans — won’t be as eager to forgive him, but he said he’s unfazed about playing in front of the hostile crowds of the Big Ten.

“I’m 26 years old, and I’ve lived through a lot of things,” he said. “If the worst thing that I have to deal with is media or someone at a game saying something, then I think I’m well off.”

Outside Hubbard’s appearance, McCaffery talked about the lead-up to next season. He said he’s optimistic about the team’s prospects.

The Hawkeyes showed flashes of potential in 2010-11, and McCaffery said he feels next year’s team has the potential to do much better than the 11-20 record (4-14 Big Ten) it posted last season.

“There’s no question that we’re more talented [than last year],” he said. “We’re bigger, we’re deeper, and hopefully, that will translate into many more victories.”

That all depends on the health of his players, though.

“Any team’s success is always going to be a function of how healthy we remain,” he said. “[If] the wrong two guys get hurt, anybody would struggle.”

Iowa had its share of injury problems last year. Matt Gatens tore a tendon in his left hand early in the year, former point guard Cully Payne missed most of the year with a sports hernia, and Eric May struggled to regain his form after he strained his groin in January.

Gatens and May should be at full strength again, though, and forward Andrew Brommer got a minor knee surgery out of the way a few weeks ago and should be back in playing shape before the end of the summer.

“Assuming we stay relatively healthy, we have more weapons [than last year],” McCaffery said. “We have more shooting, we have more size, we’ve got more depth, and we’ve got more experience … we’ve got a variety of pieces that I think fit.”

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