Hodge Prepares for the Upcoming Season

Julius Hodge is ready.

Despite the loss of Josh Powell, the confident junior swingman feels that the Wolfpack can be right there among the elite teams in the ACC.

"We know that if Josh came back, we would have been undoubtedly the best team in the league," Hodge said. "But with Marcus (Melvin) continuing to step up and me being the leader and playing point guard, we'll still be right there."

Both Hodge and Melvin were counselors at this past week's adidas ABCD Camp in New Jersey – and both, especially Hodge, stood out among the college players.

Hodge, who is one of 17 finalists for the USA Men's Basketball Pan American Games, will head to Colorado next week in an attempt to make the final 12-man roster.

His days in New Jersey consisted of morning workouts, which included drills and organized games, and then each college player was required to work (work the clock) one game per session at the ABCD Camp.

"It's fun, but I work out hard every day," Hodge said. "It's real intense playing against some of the top college players so I take it very seriously. This is my livelihood and is an opportunity to give to my family, so every time I get out there I want to win."

That's exactly how Hodge played each day. He went at it as hard as anyone and treated the camp as it was a game.

Hodge admitted that the 18-13 Wolfpack of a year ago underachieved at times, including the early season stretch in which they lost to UMass and Temple.

He also said it won't happen again – even without Powell.

"I know he was talking about leaving, but I thought it was more about just getting his name out there to NBA scouts in case he decided to go next year," Hodge said. "I still have his back 100 percent for his decision, but unfortunately he didn't get drafted."

While Hodge didn't hide the fact that it will be difficult to replace Powell's 12.4 points and 5.3 boards per game, forward Ilian Evtimov should ease the blow.

"He's a good player and brings so much to the table," Hodge said. "He can pass, shoot and we're always on the same page. It seems like whenever he's on the floor, a lot of good things happen."

Hodge said that his focus this summer has been on increasing his shooting range. He and his brother shoot jumpers for two hours per day – three-pointers standing still and then off the dribble. He's also still continuing to work on his strength by doing pushups every night.

"When I left St. Raymond's I was 172 pounds," he said. "Now I'm 197 and I can get into the lane and finish much better with the added strength."

Hodge has set individual goals for himself this season.

"I want to average nine rebounds and six assists this season," he said. "The points will come."

If he puts up those kind of numbers, so will the NBA.

"If I'm a top five pick, I'll consider it," Hodge added. "I want to be a consensus top five pick. I don't want to make a bad decision."

For now, Hodge is enjoying his time at N.C. State and doesn't regret heading south instead of going to Maryland or Syracuse.

"I'm very happy here," he said. "I'm playing good basketball and I even met my (future) wife here."

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