Last season, Desmond Hubert was a freshman. He never played alongside Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, or Tyler Zeller. Heck, he barely played at all unless it was “Biscuit” time, which is when “Blue Steel” is in the game. For all of you who are unaware of “Biscuits” and “Blue Steel,” let me define these terms. “Biscuits” refers to the promotion that the nationwide chain, Bojangles, runs for the Tar Heels. If UNC scores at least 100 points, then customers can get two sausage biscuits for a dollar at participating Bojangles’ chains on the following day. “Blue Steel” refers to the guys who play when Carolina is winning by at least 20 points.
Now, that that is cleared up, you can appreciate how far Desmond has come along. In retrospect, Desmond has improved a great deal, though his statistics are deceiving. Last season, Hubert averaged 0.7 points, 0.1 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.2 assists, and 1.5 rebounds per game. This season, Desmond is averaging 1.4 points, 0.2 steals, 0.9 blocks, 0.1 assists, and two rebounds a game. This may not look like a lot, but he has doubled his output in points and steals. He tripled his output in blocks. Clearly, Desmond Hubert is the kind of player whose value cannot be measured by statistics alone.
Hubert has started for Carolina at the center position, for the majority of this season. Earlier in the season, I thought that Brice Johnson should start. However, Roy has figured out his rotation better now. In addition, Desmond has had several performances that were instrumental in Carolina netting a win. Against UNLV, Desmond recorded three points, three rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes of play. Carolina won the game by a score of 79-73. When Carolina played Florida State, he finished with four points and one rebound in 12 minutes of play. Carolina won the game, 77-72. On this past Saturday, Hubert had two steals, two blocks and two rebounds in a 62-52 victory against Maryland. Hubert played for 14 minutes.
Factors that have changed Roy’s substitution patterns are largely a result of Desmond’s play. Lately, Desmond has been more assertive on the offensive end. He looks to throw down the basketball when he is close. On the defensive side, Hubert has been aggressive and tenacious. His ability to rebound and blocks shot is giving Carolina a better low-post presence. This is Desmond’s role. Now that he realizes his role, other players (Bullock, Hairston) are stepping up to pick up the slack in scoring. It’s all about chemistry. Year in, year out, Carolina excels once players understand their roles and gel with their teammates. Some former Carolina teams gelled during the summertime. With this year’s team, it has taken half of the season. Nevertheless, it happened at a perfect team – at the beginning of the conference schedule.
If Desmond Hubert continues to improve, he may be a starter next season as well. Next, Carolina has Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks as in-coming low-post players. With Hubert’s recent emergence, I think that the center position is his to lose. Message to Desmond: continue to play with a chip on your shoulder. No one expects you to be “the man.” Doubt and lack of faith in your abilities are great motivators. Keep up the great work!