Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hubbard Feature

His Father's Son, Westfield's Hubbard Shows His Versatility
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, December 6, 2007; VA20

As he squeezed his 6-foot-6 frame into a desk in his Westfield High School classroom, senior forward Maurice Hubbard was surprisingly comfortable.

It's all part of his "roll with the punches" attitude.

The approach has helped the 17-year-old, who averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds last season, adjust to his environment after moving three times before he was in the seventh grade.

It's also helped Maurice, known as 'Mo,' shrug off his critics.

"They say I'm selfish and I'm living off my dad's name," said Hubbard, the son of Washington Wizards assistant coach Phil Hubbard.

Maurice talked about the opportunities his dad has created for him, and explained how his father helped him improved his game during offseason Wizards pick-up games at Verizon Center. He talked about how he and his father will break down game tape together.

Then he leaned forward, unfolded his hands and said: "I know he's there helping me, but he can't do everything on the court for me."

Phil Hubbard is one of four players who has had his number (35) retired at the University of Michigan, where he led the Wolverines to the 1976 NCAA championship and helped the U.S. Olympic team win a gold medal that summer in Montreal. He spent 10 seasons in the NBA with Cleveland and Detroit and was an assistant coach at Golden State and Atlanta before coming to Washington.

"There's always going to be comparisons," Phil Hubbard said. "I'm in basketball. He's in basketball, so that's just a natural thing. I think it's very tough, but I think he's handled it well, knowing that there is always going to be some comparison. That's why he's picked the places that he's picked, so that he can get his own identity."

Maurice recently signed a letter-of-intent with Ball State -- a program recently rocked by allegations of racism. Following last season's 9-22 finish, coach Ronny Thompson resigned, citing a racially hostile work environment.

Before choosing Ball State over Minnesota, Virginia Commonwealth, Akron, George Mason, and Penn State, Hubbard welcomed his dad's help as the two launched their own independent investigation.

They wanted to see if the school was right fit for Maurice, "whether he is black or white," his father said.

"Is this the right place for my son? Because that's all that matters," said Phil, who used his connections with other coaches, players and journalists to help his son and him come to their conclusion.

"I felt there were more positives," Maurice said.

Maurice hoped to create his own identity or as his father said, "put his stamp on something" when he chose Westfield over local private school powerhouse programs that recruited him before he started high school.

"I was enrolled at O'Connell in eighth grade. I had my schedule and everything," Maurice said. "Me and my dad discussed it and we decided that if you are a good enough player you will be seen [by] private school or public school."

As a sophomore in 2005, Hubbard was a dominating inside presence and helped Westfield to the Concorde District title.

Last season, he was moved to guard, which many believed was to help him attract college recruiters.

But as Hubbard improved his outside shot and ball-handling, Westfield didn't find the same success, evidenced by a 77-42 blowout loss to Herndon in last season's Concorde District final.

"I'm always trying to help my team," Hubbard said. "If it's inside, I'm going to help; if it's outside, I'm going to contribute that way, too. If the coach tells me to stay inside, then I'm going to stay inside because that's what we need."

Hubbard will be called upon this season to be an inside and outside threat.

It's the same versatility that earned him a reputation of being selfish and that makes Westfield one of the top teams in the Northern Region.

In addition to Hubbard, Westfield returns starters Jamie Richardson, a 6-foot-2 guard, 6-5 forward Jon Gaston and point guard Brian Kennedy.

"Right now, I see us as at the middle of the pack because we have a lot of work to do," said Hubbard. "We have the talent to be at the top, but we just have to bring it together."

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