http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=bFolL4Is-sU (highlights of the game. 1 minute 30 secs).
http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=z4KGMohRbf0&feature=related (Hodge gives UCONN the business- sorry Moose).
2 years ago Julius (he was named by his older brother) made his way Down Under to Adelaide-known as the City of Churches. The 36er's (obviously the name was stolen from Philly) were struggling. Badly. They had a losing record when Hodge replaced Mike Chappell (who was officially released on the 12th of December 2007) on the 21st of December- 9 days later.
Hodge immediately went on to dominate the NBL (National Basketball League). Even in his first game (which he only saw 19 minutes) Hodge had a modest line of 6pts, 5 boards, 3 assists and a whole lot of dribble penetration. He worked within the team concept- even though he only knew a couple of plays and brought the team within 1 win of 50%.
In his second game, this time against Perth, Hodge was.... interesting. I got to see this game in its entirety on T.V and Hodge had 10 pts, 5 boards and 4 assists- and 8(!) turnovers. The turnovers weren't from poor ball control or offensive fouls, more from a lack of understanding the offense, making a pass to a guy who he thought was about to dive- but instead flared out to the wing. Minor things, mostly from a team standpoint that are adjustable from time.
Again, against Perth, Hodge took over the game- even though his team lost by 21. He blew up, getting his all night long- with 16, 10 and 7. Hodge would come into his own for the rest of the season, drawing double teams and even (against the Melbourne Tigers-eventual NBL champions) a triple team once- its pretty cool to actually see a guy get triple teamed on the halfway line.
Next, against Money Bill Williams' very own Wollongong Hawks, Hodge destroyed everything in sight, with 34 points, 14 boards and 3 steals. They still lost though. This would become a theme for the 36er's. Hodge would dominate the games and put up LeBron like numbers, but the team would still lose. NOTE: This was not his fault. Captain Brett Maher (former Australian Olympian with 500+ games of NBL experience) was injured almost as soon as Hodge arrived and for some reason, the entire bench was non-existent almost the entire season. The other import Lanard Copeland was suspended for games as well- think Ron Artest 2006ish. The 36'ers bench was one of the weakest in the League- and still is.
Hodge- one of my all time favourite NBL players alongside S-Jax, Corey 'Homicide' Williams and Chris Anstey put his stamp on the NBL season with this statline- easily one of the top 5 of the season- 39 points (on 62.5% shooting), 1o rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and his first NBL 3 pointer. 29th January 2008. A date in NBL history- any of the 5 fans of basketball here in Australia could tell you that.
Hodge would go on to become 3rd Team All League (votes are taken after each week of games)- otherwise Hodge would easily have been 2nd team, probably 1st team. Unfortunately, he was unable to lead Adelaide to the playoffs.
Hodge breathed new life into a dying League. He and Williams almost single-handedly added an integrity and flare to the game that was missing since the Mid 1990's. It's shame to see the degrading of such a beautiful game. It really is.
HOWEVA- The NBL will be a different product after this season. Thank GOD.
Whatever Hodge can contribute to the game this year- after once again replacing a failed import- will automatically be seen as a monumental positive. Dude can flat out ball, and he'll find a home in the NBA in the near future. Bet on it. Remember: He's just happy to be alive.