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Tennesse guard Robert Hubbs dribbles toward the basket during the Volunteers' season-opening win against UNC Asheville on Friday in Knoxville. Hubbs suffered a severe cramp during the game that initially appeared to spectators to be a much more serious injury.

KNOXVILLE — Robert Hubbs may have spent more time the past few weeks on a training table, working with medicine balls or using resistance bands than he did on the practice court at Pratt Pavilion.

It hasn't slowed the Tennessee guard's production so far.

Despite being in and out of practice and at less than 100 percent, the former five-star recruit showed some flashes in the Volunteers' first two games, scoring a career-best 18 points against UNC Asheville on Friday and chipping in 13 at Georgia Tech on Monday.

Hubbs, who is averaging 15.5 points through two games after averaging 5.0 and 7.2 points in his first two seasons, missed Wednesday's practice due to illness, which brings into question his status for tonight's game against Marshall.

"Really for a guy that hasn't been able to practice much, I do think he's trying as hard as he can," first-year coach Rick Barnes said Wednesday. "I want to get him healthy, because I think he can be a special player if we can get him healthy where he can get out and work.

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"The more he can understand where he can really be good, I think that's a big part of it, too. Players have to realize, 'What am I really good at?' Then you've got to play to that, and I think he's getting closer to realizing that."

Hubbs has been slowed by groin and foot injuries that forced him out of practice leading into the season. He had a scare late in Friday's season opener, coming down awkwardly. He appeared to be seriously injured, but it turned out he was suffering from a severe cramp.

The Vols are in the midst of playing seven games in a 15-day stretch, but the schedule provides a break — from the second game in the Brooklyn Classic on Nov. 28 to the trip to Butler on Dec. 12 — that could allow Tennessee a better chance to address his health.

"We've got a short-term plan and a long-term plan," Barnes said.

"He needs to practice," the coach added. "If not, you see he gets tired. It hurts him, probably more so on the defensive end."

Barnes likened the 6-foot-4 Hubbs to Greg Buckner, the cornerstone player on his first team at Clemson in 1995 who went on to become a second-round draft pick and play 10 years in the NBA.

"(Buckner) was terrific around the rim," Barnes said. "He's about the same size, and Robert's a really good 15-(feet)-and-in player. I think he's got a beautiful shot. He has a tendency to rush them out there (on the perimeter). We're trying to get him to understand that he is a real factor 15 feet and in."

The Vols would love to have him healthy and practicing, too.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfree press.com.

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