Player with only one hand gets preferred walk-on offer from UF
Published: Friday, August 16, 2013 at 9:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 at 9:15 p.m.
On the basketball court, Zach Hodskins said he doesn't think of himself as different from any player he faces.
"It just feels like home out there," Hodskins said. "I love the game. It just makes me dedicated to try to work that much harder in the gym to get better each time that I play."
Years of toil and sweat were rewarded when Hodskins, 17, was offered a preferred walk-on spot to play at Florida. But that's not the best part of the story. Hodskins was born with his left arm rounded off at the elbow, rising to the level of a Division I prospect while playing without a left hand.
Going into his senior year at Milton High in Alpharetta, Ga., Hodskins said he has yet to receive any full scholarship offers. As a preferred walk-on, Hodskins would make the 2014-15 Gator roster without having to try out.
"Florida is the main choice right now, for sure," Hodskins said.
An online video at ScoutsFocus.com shows why UF offered Hodskins a preferred walk-on spot. It showcased the 6-foot-2 guard's various skills, which included behind-the-back passes, driving baskets in the lane and deep-shooting range with pretty rotation on his shot.
"There's really not much I can't do that anyone else on the court can do," Hodskins said.
Hodskins admitted that opponents who see him for the first time often underestimate him. He uses it to his advantage.
"If they've never seen me before, they'll take a few steps back," Hodskins said. "Once I start hitting a few shots, though, then they know that they have to guard me straight up."
Hodskins averaged a shade more than eight points per game last season at Milton High. His coach last season, Van Keys, described Hodskins as a "gym rat."
"He's certainly adapted to where he can do the same things anyone else can do on the court, if not better," Keys said. "He's a tough, hard-nosed kid. A deep shooter. One game, he hit seven 3-pointers in a row for us.
"He loves the game and he works to improve himself," Keys continued. "Never once has he asked to be treated any differently than anyone else in practice. He wants to earn everything he gets."
Hodskins said he knew this summer would be critical to his chances of landing a spot on a college team. Playing for the AAU's Tennessee Playmakers, Hodskins caught the attention of Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey in a matchup against Florida 2014 commitment Brandone Francis.
"I was able to score a couple of baskets over him." Hodskins said. "Then, I noticed coach Pelphrey in the stands again when we played Florida Elite and I was fortunate to have another good game against them."
That's when Pelphrey offered Hodskins the preferred walk-on spot. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from talking about incoming recruits until signing day.
"It's a dream come true," Hodskins said of the Florida offer. "Growing up in SEC country, I've always followed them."
Hodskins said his favorite Gator player growing up was Chandler Parsons and he recalled meeting him after Florida's SEC title-clinching win at Vanderbilt at the end of the 2011 season.
"I was probably the only fan in the building that went to the Florida side," Hodskins said. "I told him it was my dream to be a Division I player someday. He told me ‘It will happen, keep grinding.' "
If Hodskins ends up playing at Florida, he wouldn't be the first player with one hand to play Division I basketball. According to the website collegebasketballtalk.com, Kevin Laue, a 6-foot-10 center who also is without his left arm below the elbow, played three seasons at Manhattan through 2011-12.
Hodskins said he will continue to work hard to prepare for his goal of becoming a Division I basketball player.
"I just like to spend five, six hours a day, shooting baskets or playing pickup," Hodskins said. "I don't want to shortchange myself."
Contact Kevin Brockway at 374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.