SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As another Notre Dame basketball season began to spiral out of control, Prentiss Hubb stepped forward to stanch the bleeding.
This recent stretch of respectability, in which the Irish have won four out of five to climb back within two games of .500, has been sparked by the best sustained stretch of play in Hubb’s three-season college career.
“The young man is a fighter,” coach Mike Brey said. “He looked around and said, ‘I’m going to have to put us on my back,’ which he’s had to do at times. . . . Nobody else was going, and he said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ ”
The junior point guard from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was averaging 16.2 points and 8.2 assists in his last five games heading into Saturday’s road test against Georgia Tech. During that span, he is shooting 45.3 percent from the field, including 18-for-35 from beyond the arc.
Hubb, the active Atlantic Coast Conference leader in career assists, paces the league in three-point shooting percentage (.357) and three-pointers made (40) and ranks second in assists (5.7) and minutes played per game (36.7).
At 14.5 points per game, he sits just behind Nate Laszewski for the team scoring lead. And nationally, just two other players have piled up 350 career assists and 150 three-pointers.
No wonder Brey called Hubb “the straw the stirred the drink” after that 14-point road win at Miami.
“He was amazingly focused on both ends of the floor,” Brey said.
A wiry-strong lefty, Hubb takes pride in his ability to set up his teammates with daring drives through the lane. But when the shots aren’t falling for the rest of a middling Irish roster, Hubb will step up.
“When you hold his feet to the fire, he really rises to the occasion,” Brey said. “He’s a tough guy. He wants to win. He wants to lead. He’s really got a high basketball IQ. He really understands the game. I love coaching him.”
Life hasn’t always been smooth for Hubb, who missed his entire senior season at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., because of a torn ACL in his right knee. That knocked him from a spot in the top 40 of the 2018 recruiting class to No. 94 on ESPN’s final list.
Having led Gonzaga to a 32-5 mark as a junior, Hubb’s reputation was enough to earn him scholarship offers from Virginia, N.C. State, Maryland, Georgetown, Cincinnati and Xavier.
Hubb opted for Notre Dame after Brey and his staff showed unwavering interest, even after his knee surgery left his future in some doubt.
“I really trusted in Coach Brey and had faith he could take my game where I wanted it to be,” Hubb said. “We developed that bond together. I really thought I could develop as a player.”
As a freshman on a 19-loss team, Hubb shot just 26 percent from three-point range, 32 percent overall and averaged 8.1 points. He suffered through a 3-for-35 skid from beyond the arc, shooting just 13 percent overall during that eight-game nightmare.
As a sophomore, Hubb pushed his scoring average to 12.1 while improving his shooting from long range (34.4 percent). The Irish went 20-12 and projected to make the NCAA Tournament until the COVID-19 shutdown.
Hubb has taken another step forward this year. He has helped integrate transfer guards Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz while pushing the 6-10 Laszewski to a breakout season.
Hubb is doing all he can to help the Irish return to postseason contention. Back-to-back Elite Eight participants in 2015 and 2016, Notre Dame last qualified for the tournament in 2017.
“I just want to help in any way possible — if that’s getting steals, assisting my teammates or scoring,” Hubb said. “I want to be the guy that my teammates can rely on when they need help, even if it’s off the court. They can always come to me.” V