Four Years in Prison Leads to 2 Years in Big Ten
Anthony Hubbard will suit up for Iowa next season at age 26.
Growing up, Anthony Hubbard didn’t have much guidance, and that’s what allowed him to go down the wrong path at an early age.
He was raised in Woodbridge, VA and was attracted to a rugged crowd. Hubbard’s mother and brother worked several jobs to support the family, which left him on his own for long periods of time. He lacked focus throughout his teenage years and never played a single high school basketball game due to constant academic issues. He did play AAU for the Prince William Pacers, but that’s as far as his basketball career went.
“The last thing on my mind coming out of high school was playing college basketball,” Hubbard said.
But academic issues and college basketball would become the least of his worries. When he was 18, he was asked by a friend to come along to commit a crime. “I felt like he was my friend, and I wanted to be loyal and not let him go alone, so I decided to go with him… I made a bad decision and it’s a part of my life now. I’m not going to shy away from it,” Hubbard explained.
Several days passed and Hubbard thought he was home free, but police showed up a week later at his mother’s house looking for him. According to Hubbard, his mom advised him to turn himself in, so he did. Hubbard was charged with armed robbery and spent the next three years and 11 months in prison.
When asked what his first thoughts were after being incarcerated, Hubbard said, “I thought my life was over, I thought nobody would want me.” Hubbard thought the last thing he would do is play organized basketball, let alone college basketball at the highest level. “Basketball was on the very bottom of my to-do list.”
What he didn’t realize was this so-called mistake may have actually saved his life. He finally found something that he was very unfamiliar with—that something was structure. Hubbard’s daily schedule consisted of waking up every morning at 5:30 a.m. for a head count, which was one of five counts throughout the day. The rest of the day consisted of structured activity with three meals squeezed in between. Hubbard said, “The three meals weren’t necessarily hot meals, but I made it work.”
Although there was plenty of structure, there was also a large amount of down time where he had to reflect on what he did. To pass the time, Hubbard worked out non-stop. He said, “I really didn’t have any other choice; we had one TV for a couple hundred prisoners and nobody else wanted to watch basketball all day. The only thing I could do to take my mind of things was work out.” He began to accept his current situation in prison and actually started to appreciate things. It was a long and painful four years for Hubbard, but he made it through and came out with a new outlook on life.
When Hubbard came home (at 6-5, 225 pounds), he had nothing planned and didn’t know what to do. He looked for work, but that can be hard with a past like his. He was playing in an open gym and came across somebody who wanted to help. One of his friends wanted to help him get into school. Hubbard didn’t think it was possible: “I thought there was no way somebody would take me at a college. I really didn’t think anyone would want to take that risk.”
They began contacting junior colleges across the country. Hubbard wanted to enroll to play for Dave Miller, head coach at Frederick Community College. Frederick CC was close to home for Hubbard, and he had several friends on the team so it seemed like a perfect fit. Frederick CC would not admit Hubbard because of his past. “Because Anthony had no prior record of success in the classroom our President and our administration would not allow me to recruit him,” Miller said.
With Frederick CC out of the equation, Hubbard took a visit to Odessa College in Texas. He enjoyed the visit and decided to stay for summer school and played his freshman year there. He had a solid season in Texas, but wanted to take a look at a few other schools. His first choice was Frederick CC. Hubbard proved at Odessa that he could excel on and off the court. Miller said, “Our athletic director called their athletic director and our president called their president. Everyone at Odessa had nothing but positive things to say about Anthony.” Miller was then allowed to recruit Hubbard and signed him shortly thereafter.
At Frederick, Hubbard had a breakout year averaging 20.7 points per game and raked in 10.5 rebounds per night. He led Frederick to a 24-7 record and shot the ball at a 61 percent clip from the field. He was also named a NJCAA DI Second-Team All-American. Miller spoke highly of Hubbard’s basketball ability and character. “He was our leader all season on and off the court. He’s a great player and an even better person. He brings it every day and keeps things in perspective,” Miller said.
Hubbard had more than 75 schools contact him throughout the season and narrowed it down to four schools this spring. Those four were Iowa, Nebraska, Iona and Penn State. Miller said it was a tough choice for Hubbard. He ultimately signed with Iowa and said his visit to Iowa separated the Hawkeyes from the rest of the pack. Hubbard felt the coaches, fans and university, as a whole, welcomed him with open arms and accepted him for who he is today.
Miller feels that Hubbard’s game will translate well in the Big Ten and stated, “Obviously it’s a big adjustment going from junior college to the Big Ten, but Anthony finishes so well around the rim, has a strong frame with very strong hands and is an excellent passer. I think he will find success with those things at Iowa.” Hubbard’s defense has improved dramatically since arriving at Frederick. Miller said, “Anthony has always been good on the offensive end, but he really put the time and effort in to the defensive end this year.”
It’s been a long, winding road for Hubbard, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’ve learned how to be a real man after all that I’ve been through. You should never give up on your goals and aspirations in life. I wanted to give up a lot, but my internal competiveness wouldn’t let me quit,” he said.
Hubbard was able to make the best of a bad situation in prison and had these encouraging words: “Whatever you go through in life, somebody always has it worse or has been through worse. I had three meals a day; a lot of people around the world don’t have food to eat. I have my health and physical abilities, some people aren’t able to walk. You don’t have to go my route, but I hope people learn from it and continue to fight and pursue their dreams.”
Miller summed up Hubbard’s story, saying: “This is a wonderful opportunity for him. He’s served his punishment and fixed things. It should be an inspiration to anyone else who makes mistakes, fix them and move on. Anthony has done that, and now he’s going to play in the Big Ten.”
Brad Winton is a former college/pro coach. He runs JucoRecruiting.com as well as a scouting service that provides recruiting information to colleges and universities. Follow him on Twitter @jucorecruiting. Email Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org.