Hard-Luck Hodge

MILWAUKEE -- Since leaving Raleigh in 2005, life has been interesting to say the least for former NC State men's basketball star Julius Hodge.

A first-round pick of Denver in the 2005 NBA Draft, the 6-7 Hodge spent much of his rookie season playing in the NBA Developmental League, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game for the Austin Toros before the Nuggets recalled him to finish the regular season in the Mile High City. He appeared in 14 NBA games as a rookie.

Last April, Wolfpack fans will also remember that Hodge was injured in a shooting outside a Denver nightclub but made a full recovery. This season, Julius was again sent to the D-League and again performed well before being recalled to the Nuggets on January 2, 2007. Not even two weeks later, he was traded to Milwaukee after playing in four games for Denver. Hodge saw time in five games with the Bucks before they released him on February 7.

Ironically enough, Pack Pride caught up with Julius on what proved to be his final day in Milwaukee, speaking with him just a few hours before he was waived. Here is that conversation.

Hodge finished his NC State career as the school's No. 3 all-time leading scorer and helped lead the Wolfpack to their first NCAA Sweet Sixteen berth in 16 years as a senior.

Julius still has nothing but great memories about his four-year stay in Raleigh.

"I definitely took being part of the NC State family seriously and to heart," he said. "It was great just being part of that family. I am looking forward to in the future, coaching the Wolfpack."

He still remembers being on pins and needles before his name was called as being the 20th overall pick of Denver in the 2005 draft.

"For the better part of the draft, I thought I would go higher," he admitted. "I thought I would go at No. 19 to Memphis. That's where everyone had told me that I would go. But when Hakim Warrick came out, that pushed me a down a little bit."

Making the jump from the ACC to the NBA has meant a few adjustments on Hodge's part.

"The biggest adjustment has been paying bills and sitting on the bench," he said. "I let my mom take care of the bills. Being my second year in the league and not getting much playing time, I have learned that you just have to be extra patient. It's not a matter of my work ethic, talent or being able to play the game. Me not playing right now is more about how things are at a certain time. I know as long as I'm patient that good things will happen for me.

"Gilbert Arenas sat on the bench early in his career and look where he's at now. Michael Redd did too for most of his first two years in the league. A lot of guys do that but once they start playing, they take advantage of the opportunity. They see every day as a blessing and when I get my chance, I know that I will take advantage of it."

After being shot last April, Julius admits that being involved in such an incident definitely gave him a somewhat different outlook on things.

"I've always had that feeling that every day is a blessing," he said. "With what happened, it definitely made me look at things with a better perspective. I really look at myself in the mirror every day and try to be the best person I can on the court but off the court as well. I hold every situation dear to heart and try to be the best person possible."

Julius credits his spending a large part of his first two seasons in the D-League with ultimately helping to make him a better NBA player.

"Playing there definitely helped me become a more confident player," Hodge said. "Getting sent down from the NBA and getting some minutes definitely gets your confidence going. It was a good situation for me. I was down there playing about 20 minutes per night, averaging about 12 points and just under 10 assists (this year). I also got good experience in game situations. That made me even more confident as a player."

Hodge had been back with the Nuggets when he learned he had been traded.

"It was a very big shock and surprise to me," he recalled. "When (Nuggets Vice President of Player Personnel) Rex Chapman pulled me aside and told me, I thought he was joking. I thought he was breaking the ice to tell me that I was going back to the D-League. But when he told me I had been traded to the Bucks, I thought he wasn't serious. He told me that Earl (Boykins) and myself had been traded. I saw it as an opportunity for me to get better and also to play."

After spending nearly a month in Milwaukee, he was waived by the Bucks on February 7. As of press time, Hodge has yet to land with another NBA team. But he is a former first-round pick who still has a considerable amount of talent. All he needs is a break and a little luck to go his way.

Judging from how things have gone for him since leaving NC State, he is definitely due for a rash of good fortune. Here's hoping that it comes his way soon.

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