During last season’s run to the Final Four, some of the basketball fans came up with a t-shirt that read, “It’s in my DNA.” This, of course, was referring to the success of the girls’ and boys’ basketball programs over the past several years. When looking at the Morgan County basketball program over the past 35 years, there is only one mother-daughter combination that can brag about being a part of a State Championship team. That combo is 2017 senior power forward Aris Hubbard and 1984 graduate and Mom Kathy Head Hubbard who played the same position. Aris was a member of the second State Champs in school history two years ago under Josh Reeves while Mom played for Coach Steve Cisson on the school’s first in 1983. Now, that’s something to brag about.
Cisson has had the opportunity to watch both players come into their own. He said, “I have been tickled to watch Aris come along like Kathy did. It’s amazing how much they walk alike, talk alike, and even jump alike. She reminds me so much of Kathy. I’ve had the tremendous joy of coaching her Mom and now seeing Aris do a lot of the things Kathy did. They were exactly alike as ninth graders. Kathy spent that summer in Rutledge gym playing with the boys and making herself a basketball player while Aris has used her summers to become a track star. It’s uncanny how much they are alike athletically and personally.”
Mrs. Hubbard’s resume in high school sports includes basketball and track. The mother of four (Aris, Gary Walker, Jarvis Hubbard, and Nicosia Hubbard) is a life-long Rutledge resident married to Johnny Hubbard, also of Rutledge, for the past 20 years. While at MCHS she participated in basketball for four years and track for two. It’s obvious where her daughter gets her athletic ability. Besides winning the State Championship in ’83 with a record of 29-1, Hubbard was a three-year starter that tacked on a Region Championship her senior year and was runner-up to Putnam County her sophomore season as well. The Lady War Eagles won their first State Championship that year.
Despite only running track for two years, she boasts some of the same accolades as Aris and ran in many of the same events. Her times in the 100, 200, and 4×100 relay were good enough to qualify for state while she also excelled in the long and high jump events. Mrs. Hubbard talked about her high school career, “I got cut from the basketball team my eighth grade year. We didn’t have a middle school team, but Coach Cisson invited some of us to the tryouts. After that I got my Dad to put up a goal in our yard and started shooting more. I played every day until the ninth grade tryouts and made the squad. However, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to play if not for Cynthia Garrett’s Mom, Mrs. Ruby Lee Garrett. She was big into basketball and Cynthia was our point guard, so a lot of the girls from Rutledge would jump in and ride with her.” According to Hubbard and Cisson, the big change didn’t come for her until her sophomore season. Cisson said, “She went to that old Rutledge gym every day after that ninth grade season and played with the boys. Kathy only scored two points the entire year as a freshman, but ended up starting the next year because she made herself into a basketball player with hard work.” That work obviously paid off. Cisson added, “Just as much as I could brag on her athletic ability, I could brag on her being a good person. A good example was coming home on the bus from the State Championship game at Georgia Tech. Kathy was right there in front leading the team in gospel hymns.”
Hubbard went on to say, “The one thing about track that I remember the most was making it to the State Finals in the 100 meters with the fastest time. I decided to go to the prom instead. I regret that decision now, but I really didn’t have anyone to encourage me or help me understand how big of a thing it was. I could have won a State Title. I hate that so bad now. I also remember winning the high points trophy at a meet and I didn’t even know what that was all about. My teammates were encouraging me to go get the trophy and walk down to the podium. Really, all I knew about track was that when that man popped that gun I was going to run as fast as I could to the finish line. In the preliminaries at state that year, I told all the girls at the starting line that I wasn’t that fast, but had won all my races. I outran them all.”
Hubbard mentioned the sub-par conditions for track at the time and how difficult it was for them to prepare for their events. “Our track was out where the practice football field is now. We had a dirt track with very little equipment. What we did have was old and worn out. The high jump pit was a grassy area with old pieces of foam thrown in to land on. It really didn’t help that much. There was no recreation track or places to compete other than the high school events at that time. It was pretty bad.”
Upon graduation from Morgan County, Hubbard took her game to Emmanuel Junior College where she played two years for the legendary Mike Hubbard (over 40 years as head coach and is still coaching there today). She started her sophomore year on a Conference Championship team that went to the National Tournament before entering school at Georgia College. Things didn’t pan out there so she was offered a scholarship to play at AUM, Auburn University at Montgomery. She played one year and has fond memories of that time. We had a good season, but everybody is a good player when you get to that level. I do remember hitting the game-winning shot in a tournament we played in. The ball wasn’t even supposed to come to me, but I ended up with the ball right outside the block and took a jump shot that was all net. I’d probably say the same things about the opportunity to play college athletics that most others would. It taught me discipline, the importance of relationships, teamwork, and many other things. I never would have gotten a college education had it not been for basketball. There were financial issues back in the day and basketball was the reason for going.”
Hubbard now holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Physical Education and Health as well as a Leadership Degree from Georgia College. She has been employed by the Morgan County BOE for 25 years at Morgan County Elementary School where she teaches PE. She is now the head girls track coach and has served stints as the girls’ head basketball coach at both MCHS and MCMS along with working as an assistant in both sports as well.
The conversation spotlight then shifted over to Aris. She has only one-upped her mother due to increased opportunities at the high school level for female athletes. Not only has she shined on the hardcourt and track for four years, she has also become a major player for the volleyball squad as well. The outside hitter was an integral part of the first-ever Area-Championship for the Lady Spike Dogs in 2016 and has participated in the State Tournament the past three seasons making it to the Sweet Sixteen two of those three years. This year she was named to the All-Region team. In basketball, she has enjoyed three straight 8-AAA Region Championships, the aforementioned State Championship in 2016 and a Final Four appearance last season. Her track records dot the MCHS records board in the 100, 200, 4×400 and 4×100 relays, long jump, and high jump. Her best time in the 100 was officially clocked at 11.82. She has been 8-AAA Champion in every event she has entered in the Region Track Meet. She has won Sectionals and finished third at state last year in the 200. Need we say more? She’s also a good student that will be headed to college next year on a full track scholarship. At this point she is undecided about where, but has a stack of letters from schools all over the country.
Hubbard talked about her career, “My Mom is my biggest supporter. I know that my parents give me everything I could ever want or need so that I can be the best in athletics, school, and life. My favorite thing about sports is the feeling of winning, but I love meeting new people and traveling.” And she has traveled. All over. She’s competed in track events in states in the South, Southeast, Midwest, West Coast, Northeast, and Eastern Seaboard. “My teammates have been great. We’ve grown close like a family in all sports. I’m going to miss them a lot. All the coaches I’ve played for see the talent in me and push and encourage me to be better. As far as my goals are concerned, I really want to get first place at state for track and finish my senior year with all A’s. When I get to college I want to be an ultrasound technician. The biggest thing is I want to give all the glory to God for everything he’s done for me and for my athletic ability he’s given me,” she commented.
Coaches that have been around these two have nothing but positive comments about them. Basketball coach Josh Reeves said, “The first thing Coach Cisson said when he saw Aris is that she was a carbon copy of what Kathy was at her age. Aris has gotten better every year she has played basketball. She is an amazing athlete. Watching her run and jump makes you think you are watching a professional athlete as opposed to a high school athlete. What Aris brings to the court defensively is impossible to replace. She can guard any position on the court because of her athleticism and she does it at an elite level. If basketball was her first passion as track is, she would be a college prospect in her sleep. I am glad she has continued to play and get better as a basketball player even though she will be an elite level track star when she goes to college. Her positive attitude and work ethic has rubbed off on a lot of our younger girls and she has been an excellent representative for our program over the years.”
Volleyball Coach Greg Thompson echoed those sentiments. He said, “I have known Kathy from way back when I first came to Morgan County 15 years ago, starting out teaching PE at the Primary School. I just think the world of her, and I have heard so many stories about her athletic ability when she was in high school. I just wish I would have been here back then to see it in person. Of course I am much younger than her, and was probably in first grade when she was in high school. Haha!”
Aris has meant so much to me as a coach and I was honored to have the opportunity to work with her for four years on the volleyball team. She is one of the best high school athletes I have seen in my 20 years as a coach. If you are not around her much you may not know that she is hilarious, and has a great sense of humor. She is truly a pleasure to be around. I try to come to as many basketball games as I can to cheer her on and support her because she is truly a special girl. I really admire Kathy and her husband for the job that they have done in raising such a wonderful young lady.”
Mrs. Hubbard finalized our interview with these thoughts about the success her daughter has had in three sports. She remarked, “I enjoy watching her. It’s just that when I’m watching her play, I’m anticipating something new. She has the potential to play at a higher level than I ever did. I’m anticipating the day when it all clicks and comes together for her. She has so much more ahead of her. We want Aris to stay and play in-state like maybe at Kennesaw so we can watch her play. She’s a great kid that has played sports since the second grade. She never gets a break playing and practicing something year-round, but has done an outstanding job of balancing her time. She loves what she’s doing whether it’s traveling to compete at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports every summer, going to the summer AAU events, working with the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Team, going to summer camps for volleyball or basketball or going all over the country to run in track events. I think she’s doing pretty well keeping her grades up through all this with no pressure from us. She has managed to do that all on her own. I just thank God that he has allowed Aris to hold it all together and has truly been with her on this journey.” They even talk alike.
Like Mother-Like Daughter: It’s definitely in the DNA.