Standout Tennessee basketball freshman Robert Hubbs III may be shut down for the rest of the season as the team ponders surgery for his lingering left shoulder injury, head coach Cuonzo Martin said before practice Thursday.
Hubbs has missed the Vols' last two games with the recurring issue that has plagued him since high school and has worn a restricting brace on his left shoulder all season.
"Right now, it's still 50-50 on whether we'll shut him down and he would have to have surgery," Martin said. "Then, we would move from there."
The third-year coach said the Vols are still in the process of finding out specifics on the issue and will then discuss options with Hubbs and his family.
"I think it's just a case of getting all of the data possible with the doctors and trainers," Martin said, "talking to his parents and making sure Robert understands everything involved — the time out with having to have surgery — and just going from there."
Martin believes the freshman will miss his third straight game on Saturday as Texas A&M visits Thompson-Boling Arena but has not officially ruled Hubbs out. Specifics on Hubbs' injury have been few and far between, but Martin explained how it has flared up at random moments.
"It will continue to happen," Martin said of Hubbs' pain. "It could happen two days from now, it could happen in two weeks. The pain could last for 30 minutes or it could last for two days."
Hubbs was the Vols' sixth man throughout the opening third of the season and averages 18.3 minutes in 12 games. But he is shooting just over 30 percent from the field and has seen his playing time dip more and more in close games.
Martin openly pondered both sides of the current situation Hubbs is facing, seeming to indicate that surgery was inevitable — whether it's in the coming weeks or at the end of the season.
"What's the best situation for Robert Hubbs?" Martin asked. "Do you shut him down now so he has a chance to rehab and get ready in the summer time, or do you prolong this thing to April or May? Then you're talking about five months (of recovery), and who knows when he'll be back on the floor."
Having the injury fixed for good before 2014-15 would be a weight off the Vols' shoulders. UT will lose at least three starters, so Hubbs will undoubtedly be needed to help alleviate the pain of those absences.
Martin also conceded that his team's deep roster this year helps with Hubbs facing possible surgery, but did not shy away from emphasizing his importance.
"You're talking about a very talented player and a guy who you count on for production," Martin said. "Even though he hasn't played as well as he's capable of playing, he is a guy who brings a lot to the table.
"But the most important thing in talking with Robert, for me as a coach, is Robert's safety, and then, obviously, Tennessee basketball (second). We just have to do what's best for the young man, and I think if that's the best thing, then we need to do it."