By Hays Collins
Insight Group - Mississippi Scoreboard

He is a 16-year-old sophomore and already in his third season as a starter for Madison-Ridgeland Academy’s basketball team.

He is one of the top players in the state, averaging 23 points per game — and rarely plays an entire game because of lop-sided scores. He has scholarship offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Jackson State and Tulane. That list will surely grow over the next two seasons.

Some believe he will be one of the most celebrated guards in the country by his senior year.

Meet Josh Hubbard, 5-foot-11 and 180-pounds. MRA’s Richard Duease, the winningest coach in Mississippi history, will tell you he plays a lot bigger than that.

He is a big reason the  Patriots are 20-3 with their only losses to St. Thomas More, which has won three consecutive Louisiana Class 4A state championships; Raymond High, which has won three of the past four Class 4A Mississippi state public school titles; and MUS of Memphis.

By Robert Smith

Here are six things you should know about Hubbard:

Duease knew Hubbard was special when he saw him play at school in the fifth grade.

“His brother, Jordan, was playing for me and Josh would hang around after practice and I’d let him shoot,” Duease recalls. “He was shooting 3-pointers with no effort at 11 years old. I told our coaches then, ‘That young man is going to be one of the best we’ve ever had at MRA.’

“You see guys in any sport — basketball, football, you name it — and a few of them just have the ‘it’ factor. He had it even then.

“I think that’s why it was no big deal when we decided to move him up in the eighth grade. He runs a 4.49 (40-yard dash). And he loves to compete.” 

He was 13 when that eighth-grade season started. He averaged 15 points per game and led the Patriots in three-pointers. He averaged 18 a game as a freshman and again led in three-pointers.

Hubbard has provided numerous ‘wow’ moments, but two stand out to Duease.

“His sophomore year, we’re down two in the final seconds to Gulfport, who was really good,” the coach says. “We inbound the ball beneath our basket. He comes off  a double screen, gets the ball in the corner right at the end of our bench, and Gulfport has a 6-foot-5 guy waiting on him. Falling out of bounds, Josh hits the shot and we win the game.

“He had 46 that night, and it showed what he’s capable of.”

Another ‘wow’ occurred Jan. 15 at Jackson Prep. 

The opposing student section was chanting “overrated” at him for most of the game.

“Josh came from the left side, two dribbles and dunked,” Duease says. “But it was one of those dunks where he brought the ball all the way down to his waist, his eyes were even with the rim and he slammed it through.

“That dunk changed everything. We were already up, but we went on a 10-0 run and it was over.”

By Robert Smith

To become the elite player he wants to be, Hubbard must improve his defense.

“And he will,” Duease says. “He’s strong enough, quick enough. His defense is already much better than it was last year. I think pat of it is he’s afraid to foul out, but he’s learning that if he’ll use those quick feet God has given him, fouls won’t be a problem.”

He was an outstanding running back in football before he gave up the sport during middle school.

“I even encouraged him to play this past year,” Duease says. “But he looked at me and said, ‘Coach, I’m all in on basketball.’ He plays year-round and is on a national team out of Memphis. He just loves the game.”

He is not a one-man team.

Six-foot senior Phillip Hughes is averaging 14 points per game. Harrison Alexander, a 6-5 sophomore, hits 12 points a game. Point guard Tyler Latham, a 5-10 junior, is one of the best defenders in the league.

“We’ve got nine or 10 guys we can play, and that’s one of the biggest advantages we have over most teams — we have a lot of depth, plus they don’t have a Hubbard.”

He drives a Porsche to school.

I joked with Duease that the recruiting rumor mill was probably having fun with that.

The fact is, Hubbard’s parents, Jason and Betty, have done quite well. They own an AERS franchise, which specializes in air and surface purifiers, water filtration and treatment systems, and vacuum cleaners.

“They’re a great Christian family, and I think that’s one reason Josh remains so grounded,” Duease says.