Caring got a little less creepy this weekend, as Fran McCaffery picked up a verbal commitment from juco forward Anthony Hubbard. Hubbard picked Iowa over Nebraska, so he is a man of unassailable intellect.
The caring's not as creepy because Hubbard's not a high school kid. He's not a teenager. Heck, he might be the oldest player in D-I college basketball next season... because he spent almost four years in prison. Hell, at 26, he almost doesn't even violate the Half-Your-Age-Plus-Seven rule with McCaffery (that cutoff is 32).
But, yes, we probably need to get back to the prison thing. Hubbard spent 3 years and 11 months in a Virginia penitentiary after being convicted on robbery charges during his senior year of high school.
That detail is important, because had his conviction come a few months later, after Hubbard graduated from HS, his collegiate eligibility would have basically evaporated while he was in prison. As it stands, he matriculated after his sentence was up, so that's why he's allowed to be 26 and playing college ball. [EDIT: I'm a dip, I was thinking about NFL draft eligibility, which follows different rules.]
As far as his character, obviously, people are going to hear "ex-felon with 4 years of prison time" and instinctively think of Tyree from the Mad Real World. But... no, it's okay, go ahead and watch that entire clip. It's fine. We'll be here. All done? Anyway, prison is an awful, awful place, and Hubbard wouldn't exactly be the first person to spend their early 20s incarcerated and come out with an itch for recidivism. Fortunately, Iowa did their due diligence in recruiting Hubbard:
[Frederick JC coach Dave Miller] said McCaffery was unaware of Hubbard's past when he placed the initial phone call, but called again after consulting with officials at Iowa and conducting a background check on Hubbard.
"We explained the situation right away. I forwarded all of the paperwork we had to the folks out there and I know they spoke with a lot of other people," Miller said. "Iowa did its homework."
Hubbard said he appreciates that Iowa coaches have given him the opportunity.
"They haven't judged me because of something that happened eight years ago," Hubbard said. "They've seen I've worked hard to turn my life around and that I am trying to prevent others from making the mistake I made."
Miller also told reporters that he'd let Hubbard date his daughter, which seems like a decision best left for the daughter, but we get his point: Hubbard's day-to-day character is not a concern. So that's good.
As to the actual basketball part of the equation, Hubbard looks like a solid prospect. Iowa's not exactly hurting for 6'5" tweeners -- and by that we mean that's basically half the roster -- but Hubbard's got grown man muscles at 6'5", 220, and he averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game at Frederick. McCaffery's got plans to use him basically everywhere.
"He can pretty much play any position on the floor," McCaffery said. "Anthony's athletic, he can score and is perfectly suited for our style of play. He's proven that he has the character necessary to make a great impact with us."
A center playing point guard? A small forward at center? A power forward at shooting guard? HUBBARD IS ALL THINGS AT THE SAME TIME. That's versatility, homes, and any time you can slide a guy in at multiple positions, it means things like depth and foul trouble are less of problems as a game progresses. We're a little wary of letting Hubbard run the point -- we've seen over the last five years what happens when there isn't a true point guard on the floor, and it's usually pretty disastrous -- but that's a call Coach Fran can make after he sees some practices.
I don't want to belabor the robbery, because it's clear Hubbard is putting that part of his life behind him and he deserves the opportunity to do so. People can raise their eyebrows at this signing at first glance, but if the guy's got his life turned around, then whose best interests are served by telling him he can't attend a four-year school to play ball? America's the land of opportunity, not the land of capricious and arbitrary exclusion, right? RIGHT?
That all said, though, Hubbard and Iowa are going to face a lot of ugly comments from opposing fans over the next few years. Think of the worst thing you can say about prison and someone who went there. Make it twice as tasteless. It'll be gallons of that at every road game for as long as Hubbard is here. I don't like it; being able to hurl awful comments and epithets without the threat of consequence basically enables the worst of human behavior at sporting events. But it's going to happen, and I'm pretty sure Iowa fans would engage in it if Hubbard had gone to Nebraska or any other opponent. Let's be honest about that. Let's also hope Hubbard's ready to withstand it, put his head down, and live up to the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Excellence by demonstrating that the best revenge is greatness itself.