Julius Hodge is playing basketball professionally in Paris, but tonight he’ll serve as a link to the past for the NC State basketball team, which tips off at 9 p.m. at Madison Square Garden against Connecticut in the Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic.
The event honors former Woflpack head coach Jim Valvano and benefits the V Foundation and its efforts to raise money for cancer research.
Hodge was a sophomore on the last Wolfpack squad to play in the Jimmy V Classic. It was 10 years ago, a 69-60 loss to Gonzaga. We caught up with Hodge via email from Paris, and he reflected on that game and what Valvano means to him.
“I do remember the lead up to game time and realizing the significance of being a part of helping contribute to such a great cause as fighting cancer,” he writes. “With the late great Coach Valvano and the legendary Coach Kay Yow being two of the greatest to ever wear the red and to have battled cancer, it makes this event that much more heartfelt for State alums.”
Even after his death in 1993, Valvano remained a larger-than-life presence on campus a full decade later, writes Hodge, who adds that everyone on campus had a classic “Jimmy V story.”
“Whether it was a conversation he had with a referee, his coaching efforts, his charisma as a person and the way he made everyone within his reach feel appreciated with his kindness,” Hodge writes. “Make no mistake, the man Jim Valvano was who we all should aspire to be. …I never met Coach Valvano, and I miss him. We all do!”
Two-and-a-half years after NC State’s appearance in the Jimmy V Classic, the Wolfpack (a #10 seed) faced UConn (a #2 seed) in the second round of the 2005 NCAA tournament. Hodge drove to the basket against the Huskies and hit the game-winner with 4.3 seconds left in the game. That was the last time State played UConn, its opponent in tonight’s game.
“It was a big win for the team and especially Coach [Herb] Sendek, but more importantly it put NC State back into national prominence on the college basketball scene and into the Sweet 16,” Hodge writes. “Still to this day gives me goosebumps when I watch the clip.”