Walter Hodge(ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket) My Evolution With Stelmet Zielona Gora Was Crazy

Walter Hodge is a 30 year old 183cm point guard from the US Virgin Islands playing his seventh professional season and first season with ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket (France-ProA). He is one of those rare players that won two NCAA titles with Florida in 2006 and 2007. He started his professional career in 2010 with Zastal Zielona Gora (Poland-PLK) where he played three seasons winning the league title in 2013. In the 2013-2014 season he played for Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain-Liga Endesa) playing Euroleague: 15 games: 7.8ppg, 1.3rpg, 3.1apg, 2FGP: 50.0%, 3FGP: 30.0%, FT: 91.3%; Liga Endesa: 15 games: 6.5ppg, 1.6rpg, 2.2apg, 2FGP: 44.9%, 3FGP: 21.4%, FT: 85.0%. In the 2014-2015 season he played for Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia-VTB) playing 33 games: Score-4(16.4ppg), 2.3rpg, Assists-5(6.3apg), 1.5spg, FGP: 47.1%, 3PT: 34.2%, FT: 84.9%; Eurocup: 18 games: 14.8ppg, 1.8rpg, Assists-4(6.3apg), 1.7spg, FGP: 40.2%, 3PT: 39.0%, FT: 92.9%. Last season he played for Acqua Vitasnella Cantu (Italy-Serie A): 23 games: 11.9ppg, 3.2rpg, Assists-3(5.5apg), 1.3spg, FGP: 53.8%, 3PT: 29.9%, FT: 84.5%; FIBA Europe Cup: 8 games: 12.3ppg, 2.6rpg, 8.3apg, 1.3spg, 2FGP: 47.5%, 3FGP: 33.3%, FT: 84.0%; Italian Serie A: 22 games: 11.7ppg, 3.3rpg, 5.5apg, 1.3spg, 2FGP: 53.1%, 3FGP: 29.7%, FT: 83.6%. He also stayed active during the summer playing five times in his home country league. He spoke to German Hoops before the Champions League clash against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Oldenburg.

Walter thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome to Germany. You have played in various international competitions in the last years, but never played against a German team. How excited are you to be in a new country playing the game that you love?

It is very exciting for me to be in Germany playing against Oldenburg. They are a very good team. I really like Germany and am enjoying my time as best as I can here.

Your playing your seventh professional season and have played in 8 countries. You have had the tendency to switch teams every season. Do you at times feel like a basketball globetrotter?

Well I played in Poland my first three years and then I played in Spain, Russia and Italy. Now I am in France. It is nice to travel a bit as a professional. Learn a new language and just enjoy your time there as best as possible.

Your playing your first season in France for ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket (France-ProA). Your playing for the team of NBA superstar Tony Parker. How much dealings did you actually have with him during the contract negotiations?

Tony Parker was a big reason why I came to Asvel. He called me last summer and told me his plans for the team and me for the future. I liked what he said and decided that this was a great opportunity. He is a very serious guy and a great human being. I have a lot of respect for him.

Recently the Fraport Skyliners got your ex teammate Kwame Vaughn. What do you feel is his best asset on the court?

Kwame is a very crafty guy, can score and is very good at changing speeds. He also is a very good defender. I think that overall he is a very good player.

Despite the team having much experience, do you still feel like one of the main leaders on the team? It seems like your play is guiding the team at the moment?

One of the main reasons why Asvel wanted me was for my leadership skills. They also need me to be able to create for others. We continue to get better as a team as we have added Demarcus Nelson.

You have played so many games in your career, but when you come to a new team and meet a guy like Darryl Watkins, can you remember playing him at Florida and beating him and Syracuse 75-70 or is remembering so many guys over time difficult?

I remembered Darryl from that game. The first time we met this season, I reminded him that we had beat him. I told him first that it was by 20, but then I remembered that Syracuse made a push at the end to come back. The game was my freshman year. We talk about that game every so often.

You just turned 30 and are having a very strong statistical season. Do you feel like that now you are in your prime and this could be one of your best seasons ever?

I try to be my best every season. My main focus is too always keep working, stay healthy and not get hurt. I feel that we can have a huge season and win it all.

Last season you played in Italy with Cantu. Was the 4-5 combo of ex NBA players Jajuan Johnson and Kyrylo Fesenko the best front man that you have played with in your career?

Jajohn Johnson is one hell of a player and so athletic and Kyrylo Fesenko surely also one of the best that I ever played with, but I also played with two great players at Laboral with Tibor Pleiss and Andreas Nocioni.

After three strong seasons in Poland you made the jump in 2013 to Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain-Liga Endesa). What was your most fondest Euroleague memory?

My sweetest Euroleague memory that season was beating Euroleague powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv twice with guys like Ricky Hickman and Tyrese Rice.

You played at Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain-Liga Endesa) with French national player Thomas Huertel and German national player Tibor Pleiss. What memories did you have of the competition level with the Huertel and are you surprised Pleiss didn´t last in the NBA?

I really liked Thomas Huertel. He was a very tough guy on the court. We made each other work so hard every day in practice. We became great friends. He is such a competitor and I respect that very much. Tibor is a great kid, but still needs to learn a lot. I think that he could play many years in the NBA. He can be his own enemy. He just needs to be mentally strong and then he could play many years there.

You played three seasons with Stelmet Zielona Gora (Poland-PLK) and won the Polish title in your third. A team with few Americans and a dominant Turow, what made your team so special?

The bonding that we had as a team made it so special. We all clicked at the right time and as the playoffs came, we were rolling as a team and everyone knew their roles. We had so much confidence in each other. Now they are a Polish powerhouse. My evolution with them was crazy

What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Poland when you knew that you were far away from home?

The food and language a bit. I am a very picky eater and the first 4-5 months was difficult. It felt like I ate Mcdonalds every day. After then I found some restaurants and then all was perfect.

Stelmet Zielona Gora (Poland-PLK) retired your number in 2013. What exactly does this achievement mean to you in your career as a professional player?

It was crazy for me. When I arrived I said in an interview that I want to win the title. When I came there they had just advanced up to the first league and three years later we won the title. After my third year and title win, I decided to leave the team for Spain to have the opportunity to play Euroleague. They said they wanted to retire my jersey. At first I thought it was a joke, but it was true. This is a huge achievement for me.

You have played in Puerto Rico often the last summers like Kevin Hamilton always did. Are you more a game player in the summers getting good competition then having to do the tedious work outs without game practice?

Having a league like this at home is always great. I think playing in a league like this not only keeps me in shape, but also in rhythm. I did this for five years and it was perfect. Whenever I came back to Europe after playing in the Puerto Rico league, I had no adjustment time. If I only work out during the summers, I would have no rhythm when I came back. I remember many battles against Kevin Hamilton. We beat his team last summer in the semi-finals.

Any professional player would be happy to have one NCAA ring, but like German player Niels Giffey, you possess two rings. Is this a feat that you think about every day

Of course I do. The last time a team won back to back NCAA titles before we did with Florida was Duke in 1991 and 1992. Then we did it. It was just crazy.

When you look back at the two wins which one would you say was the more difficult to accomplish?

The most difficult was the first, because we were still learning how to win. The second one was so much more easy, because we knew how to do it. Our confidence the second time around was crazy.

Florida had so many amazing players that also later went to the NBA like Corey Brewer. Al Horford, Taurean Green, Joakim Noah or Marreese Speights. Which player in the two year NCAA run really had the most impact on you?

Al Horford. Just how he pursued and played the game really impressed me. He was a beast.

How did head coach Billy Donovan groom and prepare you best for a professional career?

He is one of the best coaches that I ever had. His best assets was how he was always able to prepare us best for each opponent and his motivation.

Who was the toughest player that you played against in the NCAA that went to the NBA?

The toughest player I fought against was Jodie Meeks. He was always strong against us and always gave us trouble.

If you had to construct an NBA Rushmore, which 4 NBA legends would you choose?

 

Jordan, Shaq, Bird and Magic

Now that Lebron won another title for the Cavs where does this win put him in the alltime best debate against Michael Jordan?

He is number three for me. He isn´t before Jordan or Kobe. He might pass Kobe, but to get past Jordan, he needs that killer instinct.

Kevin Garnett has retired. Where do you see his legacy with the best power forwards to have ever played the game?

I never liked his game, but I liked his passion and I respect him as a player. He is one of the best. He comes after Tim Duncan.

What was the last movie that you saw?

Deadpool.

Thanks Walter for the chat.

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