By Robert Wilson
MADISON – Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis’ lifelong ties to Mississippi has paid off for the second time in three years.
Madison-Ridgeland Academy senior point guard Josh Hubbard – ranked as the No. 1 overall player in Mississippi and No. 69 overall player in country and the No. 17 point guard in the country on ESPN’s 2023 Top 100 – announced Thursday afternoon that he was going to play for Ole Miss next season.
Two years ago, Callaway High point guard Daeshun Ruffin – then the No. 1 player in Mississippi – signed with Ole Miss and Davis, who is a Mississippi native, played at Mississippi State and has recruited Mississippi for several decades as a college head and assistant coach. Davis knew then Callaway coach David Sanders, who played at Provine High and Ole Miss.
Hubbard’s coach, Richard Duease, has known Davis for many years, back to when Davis’ father, Kermit Sr., was coaching men’s basketball at MSU and Duease took his high school teams to camps at MSU.
The 5-foot-11 Hubbard – the 2022 PriorityOne Bank Metro Jackson Boys Basketball Player of the Year – choose Ole Miss over Mississippi State, Seton Hall, Southern Cal, Houston, and Xavier.
Hubbard made official visits to Ole Miss, MSU and Seton Hall and an unofficial visit to Houston.
In addition, Hubbard has Division I offers from Southern Miss, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, LSU, Georgetown, Kansas State and New Orleans.
“I want to thank God for giving me the abilities to play the sport I love,” Hubbard said at the announcement held at MRA’s gym in front of several hundred students, family, and fans and live streamed on MRA’s school internet. “I want to thank my beautiful family for supporting me and achieve this dream since I was very little. I want to thank two right behind me, my parents (father, Jason, and mom, Betty) who have been there since Day 1. They raised me right and kept me in a straight line. Two important coaches in my life are Coach Duease and (former MRA junior high and assistant high school) Coach (Mark Alexander). Coach Alexander (now in his first year as Hartfield Academy’s girls basketball coach) brought me up from seventh grade to JV (junior varsity). Coach Duease brought me up from eighth grade to high school. That shows they saw something in me that I didn’t even see myself. Since the ninth grade, my AAU team, Team Thad (from Memphis) has played a big role in my career, playing on the biggest platform in the country, helped me mentally and physically.”
And then there is Davis and Ole Miss.
“Ole Miss is a great program with some new coaches on the staff,” Hubbard said. “Coach Davis not only has great future plans with me, but the team as well. It was very important to be close to home. They have great expectations for this year and the next.”
Duease – the national active leader in boys basketball victories and Mississippi’s all-time leader in wins (boys and girls) – is happy for Hubbard to get decision behind him.
“Josh has spent many a year getting his game ready for this moment and it wasn’t that he just had natural talent. He’s worked it. He’s done what it has taken to get to this point,” Duease said. “He gave up a promising football career. I think he was a Power 5 football player, but he loved basketball. He had several great choices to pick from. Kermit is a great friend of mine and Josh will have a wonderful time there. I’m proud for him and I’m ready to get this year started.”
Hubbard was impressive in a tournament in Orlando this summer where college coaches from across the country were there to look at some of the best high school players in the nation.
Hubbard did well against the top-rated player in the country – 6-1 DJ Wagner of Camden, N.J., High and grandson of former NBA player and former All-American at Louisville Milt Wagner and son of former NBA player and former All-American at Memphis Dajuan Wagner. Wagner scored 28 points in 32 minutes while Hubbard had 20 points in 25 minutes. Hubbard was 8 of 10 from the field and 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
Hubbard also outscored 6-1 Edgerrin “Bronny” James, son of NBA star LeBron James, 15 points to 11 points in the tournament in Orlando. James is rated as the No. 56 player overall and No. 14 point guard on the ESPN 2023 Top 100.
Hubbard averaged 17.2 points in 22.7 minutes in four games in the tournament. He shot 53.4 percent from the field (23 of 43), 52.3 percent from 3-point range (11 of 21) and 80 percent from the free throw line (12 of 15).
Hubbard averaged 28.8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals and led MRA to a 33-7 record, a MAIS Class 6A state runner-up finish and an Overall semifinal finish this past season. He broke a 42-year-old record when he became the MAIS career scoring leader, finishing the season with 3,233 career points.
Hubbard has scored in double figures in 70 consecutive games dating back to early in his sophomore season (he scored 7 points against Kirk Academy when he played only a quarter).
He scored a season-high 42 points and scored his team’s first 20 points against Adams County Christian School this past season. Hubbard scored 40 points, including a season-high eight 3-pointers, against Gulliver Prep, Fla., in the Junior Orange Bowl Classic in Miami during the Christmas holidays. He made 16 of 24 shots from the field, 8 of 13 from 3-point range.
Hubbard was named the MVP of the tournament and averaged 35 points and led MRA to three victories and the championship.
Hubbard, who has drawn comparisons to NBA stars Monta Ellis and Devin Booker from Mississippi by opposing coaches, scored a career high is 46 points against MHSAA Class 6A Gulfport as a freshman when he made nine 3-pointers, including two in the last 17 seconds to win the game.
Hubbard, who has started since the eighth grade, became the leading career scorer in MAIS history Feb. 23 when he passed Ken Coghlan, who scored 3,168 points from 1977-1980 at East Rankin Academy.
If Hubbard continues his pace next season, he could become Mississippi’s all-time career leading scorer.
Robert Woodard has the record with 4,274 points from 1982-86 at Houlka High. Monta Ellis is second with 4,167 from 2001-2005 at Lanier High.
Hubbard has increased his scoring average every season, 15.3 points in the eighth grade, 18.2 as a freshman, 24.3 as a sophomore and 28.8 as a junior this season. He made 108 3-pointers this season and 332 for his career.
Duease has put together a difficult non-conference schedule for Hubbard’s senior season. MRA opens with Oct. 29 against MHSAA Class 6A Meridian. The Patriots also play MHSAA Class 6A schools Starkville (at New Hope tournament), Tupelo (in the Rumble in the South at Mississippi College in Clinton), Gulfport and Biloxi (regular season games), Bartlett Tenn. (at Corinth tournament) and Memphis East (at MC) and play in the Bristol, Tenn., tournament, one of the best tournaments in the country.