Hudson goes out with a bang

LSU honored its seniors Saturday before tipoff with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Four seniors, including Xavier Whipple, Paul Wolfert, Josh Maravich and Antonio Hudson, were presented to a warm Maravich Center reception along with their families on Saturday.


While Wolfert and Maravich were seldom used reserve players and Whipple came on late in his career as a Tiger, Saturday was just the exclamation point Hudson wanted to put on the end of his career on LSU's home floor.


Going 8 of 12 from the field, including an impressive 5 of 7 showing from beyond the three point arch, Hudson showed flashes of his freshman season lighting up Vanderbilt to the tune of 25 points in his final home game as a Tiger.


"I was kind of in a groove," Hudson said. "The game was coming to me, I was getting good looks and just had to make it happen."


LSU coach John Brady said he knew Hudson's shot was on from the get-go.


"I told him tonight, ‘hell I wish every night was senior night,'" Brady said. "Golly. He shot a couple of those balls from, wow, a couple of times I just didn't say anything, but they all went in it seemed. I thought he was outstanding, not only offensively, which everybody can see, but defensively he was very good. He was positive in the huddle. He showed a lot of leadership tonight."


While Hudson was dialing in from long range, he said he never noticed where he was on the floor.


"I just shot them," Hudson said. "I don't really pay attention to where I am at. Sometimes you play a sport, you feel so good, everything was right. This was a big game, we had something to play for, it being my last game and with my family being here. I felt like I had to perform."


The game was a bittersweet finale for Hudson, who has battled confidence problems and inconsistency throughout most of his career. After a brilliant freshman season, in which he scored 24 and 23 points in consecutive wins in the 2002 SEC Tournament, Hudson spent the next two seasons mired in a sea of frustration. The Grambling native and former Mr. Basketball averaged 10.3 points his freshman season, but watched it plummet to 7.5 points a game in what was dubbed a sophomore slump. At times in his junior campaign, the 6-4 off-guard passed on wide open looks due to a lack of confidence in his stroke.


But in his senior season, Hudson has put all that in the past.


Averaging 12.7 points per game, Hudson has re-discovered his three-point shot and has been a model of consistency through his last year on campus. Hudson finished his first three season with 876 points and needed 124 to join the prestigious 1,000-point club. So far in 2004-05, Hudson has scored 343 points through 27 games and is set to surpass a personal career-high for points in a season of 351 he scored as a frosh. As of the Vanderbilt game, Hudson has scored 1,219 points in his career and is 163 of 452 from three-point range, a career average of 36 percent.


For Hudson, Saturday was a special day ending the home portion of his career at LSU in grand style, with 25 points, tying a career high, an the SEC Western Division title.


"Through all the ups and down I have been through, all the good times and bad times, it is all worthwhile now to finish like that – to win the west at home in front of a nice crowd," Hudson said. "It makes it all worthwhile."


Hudson said not only does he feel good about his own personal accomplishments, but the accomplishments of his team as well.


"It feels good especially to do that coming where we come from, it feels really good," Hudson said. "No offense to you guys, but the media was counting us out. Just to come back and play to the potential we are capable of playing of it feels real good."


Hudson has been part of now three postseason teams, including an NIT squad his freshman year and an NCAA team his sophomore. Hudson will close out his career with another trip to the Big Dance as part of Brady's third NCAA team.


"I am proud of him and his career and what he has been through," Brady said. "He has been a part of some good teams here that won some big games. He was here when we beat the No. 1 team in the country. We beat Arizona when they were a sitting No. 1 team. We have had some nice wins with him here.


"I told him and Xavier both if we had to sign them all over again, we would do the same thing. I thought Xavier was excellent tonight too. He made some big shots and ran the team well. He settled us down. He too defended extremely well."


Hudson admitted he was a bit emotional before the game and said it hasn't really hit him that he had just played his final game in the Maravich Center.


"I was in a way, but I kept it in though," Hudson said about being emotional before the game. "I know it is going to hit me a little later. I was just happy that my family was here to see it. My grandmother was here. Like I said, after all that I have been through here, the way we finished tonight, it made it all worthwhile."


And does Hudson have enough left in the tank to close out his final year as a Tiger the way he concluded his first?


"I hope so, but I wish I felt like it (a freshman again)," Hudson said. "My bones hurt, I am aching."

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