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Commentary: Hubbard's departure not the end of the world

BY SETH ROBERTS | JULY 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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By now, Hawkeye basketball fans should have heard that Anthony Hubbard decided he doesn't want to wear the Black and Gold.

The 6-5 forward from Virginia announced the decision late last week, saying in a release that he wanted to find a school closer to home.

Just like that, the high hopes that many in the Iowa community seemed to have for the upcoming hoops season evaporated.

After all, what will Fran McCaffery's young team do without a mature, well-spoken 26-year-old to look to for court guidance?

How can the Hawkeyes replace the 21 points per game Hubbard scored as a JuCo All-American at Frederick (Md.) Community College last year?

Where can McCaffery, in his second year with a program that has been the laughingstock of the Big Ten for years, possibly hope to find another player capable of swooping through the lane and throwing down insane windmill dunks any damn time he pleases?

Those are all legitimate concerns, to be sure. But now that we've had a few days to digest the news, it doesn't really seem all that bad.

The Big Ten will be much weaker this season than it was a year ago. A good portion of the talent that allowed the conference to send six teams to the NCAA Tournament is no longer in the league — Kalin Lucas, JaJuan Johnson, and Darius Morris have all departed, among many others.

This means the young, surprisingly talented Hawkeyes had a legitimate shot to finish in the top half of the league even before Hubbard decided he wanted to take an extended vacation in Iowa City.

Adding the dynamic scorer to the roster made that outcome a near certainty. He's out of the picture again, but it's still a very real possibility.

Would it have been nice to have a seasoned, athletic veteran to throw in 20 points per game for an otherwise young team?

Absolutely.

Is it the end of the world that he decided to take his talents elsewhere?

Absolutely not.

The Hubbard saga was fascinating and probably helped sell quite a few season tickets that will now go unclaimed, but don't give up on this team just yet.

Don't forget about Bryce Cartwright, who led all Big Ten point guards in assists during league play last year.

Don't forget about Melsahn Basabe, who made the all-freshman team last season and who has added several pounds of muscle to the frame that outplayed Ohio State's all-world center Jared Sullinger.

Don't forget about Eric May, who would have competed with Hubbard for the starting small forward spot. May was hurt and had a lousy 2010-11 season, but he is every bit as explosive as anyone in the conference when he's healthy.

Don't blame McCaffery for losing Hubbard, either.

McCaffery put his reputation on the line when he recruited the forward, who is famously an ex-convict. Just because the experiment didn't work doesn't mean the coach is at fault — quite the opposite, really. Bringing Hubbard aboard, for any amount of time, was a gutsy move, and Fran the Man should be applauded.

Hubbard's defection, if you want to call it that, is no one's fault. Iowa City isn't the right fit for everybody, and it's hard to imagine that a guy who seemed as even-keeled as Hubbard would leave out of spite. Until we learn that he did, he isn't a villain. Don't treat him as one.

Besides, the Hawkeyes will be just fine without him.


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