Senior Day for Walter Hodge

The lone senior on this year's Gator basketball team will be the center of attention Saturday. Walter Hodge plays his final regular season game in the O'Connell Center when the Gators host Kentucky. It'll be a farewell for the guy who has played in more wins than anyone in school history.

Walter Hodge set the mark (113) when the Gators beat Vanderbilt two weeks ago, but since then has not been able to add to his total. Florida has lost three straight games since the win over the Commodores and has put its chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament in serious jeopardy. Most believe Florida needs to beat Kentucky and win at least one game at the SEC Tournament to earn an invitation to the Big Dance.

For Walter Hodge the end of his Gator career is a bittersweet experience. His first two years saw him play between 15 and 20 minutes a game as the Gators won back-to-back NCAA Titles. The last two years his playing time has gone up, but the success rate has gone down. Florida failed to make the NCAA Tournament a year ago and might again settle for the NIT this time around.

Thursday Hodge spoke with some media guys about his career and what he still hopes his senior year might become.

MG: How difficult has it been for you to deal with winning so much earlier in your career but not as much last year and this?

WH: "It's hard, you know when you put everything into this program and you don't get the result you want. That's life. You have to keep going and try to get the guys together and try to do it together."

MG: Why has that happened?

WH: "We just have to be more together and relax. We need to use each other and make each other better and we're not doing that right now."
br> MG: Do you think you deserve to go to the NCAA Tournament?

WH: "The way we're playing right now not really, but we just have to finish the season the right way and go back to the (SEC) Tournament and do something special."

MG: What's your favorite moment in the O'Dome?

WH: "I would say when we won the last game against Kentucky my freshman year. It was really special and we beat them two times."

LV: Your freshman year the win over Kentucky at the end of the season helped serve as a springboard to a great post-season. Are you going to talk to your teammates about trying to make that happen again?

WH: "Oh yeah, I told those guys if we win the last game we can do something special. We have to win this game on Saturday and try to get that confidence back."


Florida Coach Billy Donovan has been through a bunch of senior day experiences. He offered up his thoughts on Walter Hodge ending his career in front of the home folks. He said Hodge playing with a dislocated finger late in the Mississippi State game was a perfect example of his unselfishness.

"He's on the bench crying, emotionally crying because he wants to win and he's trying to implore our guys to do it. Tears are coming down his face, and when you see someone like him care that much you want that to be a reflection of what your program is about. For him to leave here as the winningest player of all time is pretty fitting because that's all he's about. He's not about his stats. He's always put the team above himself. Every time you walk into the gym he has great energy, great passion and you know what he's about. I think that in a lot of ways is very special."


Hodge has had a hot hand lately, averaging 13.8 points in his last six games.

Hodges has scored 1,014 points in his career. His best season was last year when he averaged 10.4 points a game.

Hodge made just 65 percent of his free throws his first two seasons, but worked on that part of his game and the last two years he's connected at a 78 percent rate from the charity stripe.

Hodge won a pair of state championships at Florida Air Academy in Melbourne and was the MVP of the state finals.

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