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Flames Feature: Determination and Drive --- Damien Hubbard
It's another cold, blustery day in Lynchburg, Va., and another Liberty University men's basketball practice has just concluded. The players walk off the Vines Center court to shower, change and continue on with their days. Some may say this is a common event, something that's taken for granted, but not by Flames senior forward and co-captain, Damien Hubbard. The 6-6 forward Liberty fans see on the court today has gone through a great deal to reach this point.
Liberty fans may be familiar with Hubbard's first season as a Flame, 2005-06, a season marked by tumultuous times for the program and himself. The team struggled through a rebuilding year and, late in the season, Hubbard suffered a fate no student-athlete wants, the fate of an academic suspension.
"Basically, it was just a lot of things coming at me at once," commented Hubbard about the subject. "Basketball and school, and it was a lot for me to handle. I started falling off and Coach Dunton made the decision, which was probably the best decision he could have made, because it helped me in the long run."
With only one full season of eligibility remaining, a choice lay in front of Hubbard. Perhaps the landmark decision of his basketball career was the one he made at this crossroad. He chose to work hard and rebuild his academic status, and he has succeeded in doing that. Hubbard stated this success was because he successfully eliminated the distractions which had been a hindrance to him.
"It was basically eliminating everything but school and basketball," said the senior. "You've got to look at what's more important. School definitely is number one, and the basketball came easy once everything was right with the school."
When asked about the source of his newfound focus, the senior forward replied: "My mother and my grandmother. All they talk about is their college degrees and I don't want to let them down, so that helped me focus and gave me a lot of motivation to continue and do well in school."
While this is the most recent, and perhaps most important, example of Hubbard's hard work and determination, it is not the only time the Virginia native has exhibited either of those traits during his basketball career.
Hubbard's basketball experience began in Boyce, Va., a town located about 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., and hardly the basketball capital of the world. However, the current Liberty player enjoyed a successful prep career at Boyce's Clarke County High School, although he had to work hard to secure his spot in the starting lineup.
As many young players do, Hubbard took his freshman year to get acclimated to the system and the coaching staff at his school. One other important thing happened during this year. Growing up, Hubbard was a two-sport player, participating in both football and basketball. After his freshman year, he made a choice to focus on the indoor sport, an experience which no doubt aided in his progression as a basketball player.
Hubbard stated: "I was getting too tall, I was a quarterback, and I didn't want to be a lanky quarterback. Plus, football is played in the cold, and I'm not a fan of the cold weather. I like the indoor sports, so I just chose basketball."
After the weather-induced choice, Hubbard came into his own as a basketball player. He became an all-district perfomer as a sophomore and an all-state honoree as a junior.
During his senior year, the forward shot 55 percent from the field and averaged 25 points per game, helping him become the District Player of the Year. In fact, by the time Hubbard left high school, he was Clarke County High's all-time leading scorer. His focus had allowed him to make great strides, and now he had choices to make about the continuation of his education and basketball career.
"I had a couple of small schools inquire," Hubbard responded when asked about his recruitment out of high school. "Where I live is not highly recruited. I was really looking heavily at those schools, but I wanted to see what other opportunities I had, so that's why I made my decision to go to a junior college."
Faced with these options, Hubbard chose to attend Frederick Community College. It was quite a change of pace for the then 18-year-old; he went from living at home to being on his own at Frederick and living in a house with several other students. However, on the court, Hubbard continued to post solid numbers, as he averaged 12.5 points per game during his two seasons at Frederick. His second season at the school, he was awarded first-team junior college honors in the state of Maryland, as well as being selected on the third-team all-region junior college squad.
Once again, the now-junior forward was faced with more choices. After his success at Frederick, Hubbard received more offers to play Division I basketball. Of the schools that contacted him, including Boise State and several other schools in the western part of the country, he chose to attend Liberty, because it was, "three hours away from home, and my parents still can come to the games if they would like. Plus, it's a great school."
After coming to Liberty, Hubbard went through the up-and-down 2005-06 season. He enjoyed the Feb. 20, 2006, home win over Winthrop, citing it as one of his best basketball memories at Liberty, but there were also many struggles during the season. However, the forward has come back and been named co-captain of this year's squad.
"That's big, not a lot of people are captains," Hubbard stated. "As a captain, I just try to lead my team, and help in any way possible, on and off the court."
Looking at the career trek of Damien Hubbard, one sees a path requiring difficult decisions and hard work. This is not unlike the path of the traditional student-athlete, who must work hard and make decisions like these on a frequent basis. With this in mind, Hubbard was asked what advice he would give to young student-athletes who are struggling, whether it be with academics, or any other sort of troubles.
"I would just say keep working hard. You've got to put in the extra time and extra effort," said Hubbard. "My high school coach always told me, ‘To get something that you've never had, you've got to do something you've never done.' If that means running extra, shooting extra, that's what you do. You've just got to work harder."
By: Brad Salois
Liberty Athletic Media Relations