THE LIFE AND TIMES OF J. HODGE
Born November 18th, 1983, Julius Melvin Hodge, like entertainment guru Sean “Diddy” Combs, grew up in the rough streets of Harlem, New York. During the time when the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 90s were destroying the streets of Harlem, drug deals and shootings literally took place a few feet away from the projects where Julius grew up.
Raised by his mother, Mary Hodge, a Cafeteria attendant at one of the nearby public schools, Mary worked hard to provide for her family, but she never let the challenges of single-motherhood affect her. “My mother is an extremely hard working woman,” he said. “I remember at times she was working two jobs just to keep our family afloat, I know I get all my work ethic from just watching how hard she worked.”
At the age of 5, Julius started to learn the game of basketball from his older sibling Steve Hodge, a former star college basketball player at Long Island University-South Hampton Campus, whom mentored Julius throughout his basketball career. “I remember my brother’s toughest, determination and drive as young kid, it was amazing how much he wanted and wants to succeed.” Instead of hanging around the streets of Harlem he decided to call his brother to hit the blacktop and work on his game. “It did not matter if it was pouring rain, sleet, or snow I would shoot while my brother was rebounding until both of us were exhausted.”
By high school, Julius was closing in on his dream. A 6’6 senior at Saint Raymond High School for Boys, he busted into the National spotlight, while setting a school record his senior season by scoring 684 points. He was named First-team Parade All-American, New York’s “Mr. Basketball”, New York Daily News Player of the Year, Sports Illustrated Old Spice Athlete of the Month, and New York All-Metro Squad.
In the fall of 2001, after been named New York’s “Mr. Basketball,” Julius decided to attend North Carolina State, where he immediately fell in love with the Wolfpack fans and the city of Raleigh. Quickly noticing that Raleigh is not like New York, he states, “New York is the place to be. I could wake up there at three in the morning and decide to go to the store for some chips and Snapple and there would be cars racing down the street and people walking around everywhere. If I do that here, I’d probably be attacked by a deer.” Knowing that this was the case, he began to sacrifice parts of his life in order to achieve his biggest dream, by putting his focus on improving every day. “Once I arrived in Raleigh, I thought it was perfect, because I can put all my attention to getting better each and every day, and I knew I had to sacrifice some things, in order to achieve my biggest goal.”
With his focus and determination, Julius quickly made his presence felt. As a freshman he led all ACC freshmen in scoring by averaging 10.7 points per game. That same year, Julius was named second team All-ACC Tournament team. He achieved that by averaging 12.3 points per game and being the only Wolfpack player with multiple double-doubles for the 2001-2002 season.
Julius did not stop there, he went on to lead his team to the NCAA tournament all four years at state. He was also named first team All-ACC in 2003, ACC Player of the Year in 2004, and was the finalist for the Adolph F. Rupp and John R. Wooden Player of the Year Awards in 2004.
Despite a loss in the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, 2003-2004 was a breakout year for Julius. Not only was he named ACC Player of the Year, he also ended his college career as North Carolina State’s third-leading scorer of all time. In the year 2005, Julius returned to North Carolina State to be the 19th player in school history to have his jersey honored.
A Dream Comes True:
After an exceptional senior year, he worked out for several NBA teams and received a lot of great feedback. Projected to go in during the mid to late first round of the 2005 NBA Draft, all he could do was wait for the moment of truth.On draft day, Julius, his family, coach Sendek, and friends, all assembled at the theater in Madison Square Garden, sat two rolls behind the “green room”, and waited for his name to be called out…..And they waited, and waited.
After Rashad McCants of UNC, another ACC player, was chosen with the 14th pick, Julius was not a bit worried and stayed determined ready to shake David Stern’s hand.
“I was not nervous; I knew the earliest pick was the Pacers at number 17, even though earlier that morning I heard that I was not going to work, and Memphis was the next pick, I knew draft day worked in its own way.”
Then came the 20th pick of the draft.
“With the 20th pick of the first round of the 2005 draft,” announced David Stern, “the Denver Nuggets select Julius Hodge from the University of North Carolina State.”
“We were all excited, feeling joyful for Julius,” said Steve Hodge, thinking to himself all the nights they both shared at Harlem Park just to get to this point.
“I felt good, really happy; it was so relieving to see all the hard work had finally paid off,” said Julius, “being able to take care of my family and finally live out my dreams, playing in the NBA. It’s a blessing. I’m thankful.”