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Pack in the Pros

Julius Hodge: The Interview (2009)



Where is Julius Hodge? Since starting out this site a year ago, there is not a question that we have been asked more often. Believe us, we tried our best to track down the NC State great, but Hodge has been all over the world chasing his dream. We finally caught up with him last weekend and he was certainly excited to get to have a little contact with his favorite fans, the Wolfpack fans. The 6’7 Harlem native, came to Raleigh in 2001 and helped turn a program with a faint pulse into a sweet 16, national contender. Hodge was a fan favorite, with his quick wit and his allegiance to NC State he was loved by his teammates, NC State fans, and anyone else who had a chance to hear him speak or watch him play. After he graduated, he was the 20th selection in the 2005 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets. After being traded to the Bucks in 2007 and dropped soon after, Hodge started on a worldwide journey to achieve his dreams of being a star in the NBA. From the NBDL, to France, to Australia, and hopefully soon, back to the states, Julius Hodge hasn’t let anything or anyone stop him from getting to where he wants to go. We spoke to Julius about his journey, his life outside of basketball and NC State. So, without further ado, here is our conversation with NC State legend, Julius Hodge.

PI: So, what have you been up to these last few years since you left NC State?

JH: This past year, actually I finished up in France. Then got invited to sumer camp with the Bulls, and that didn’t work out. They basically told me that they wanted to play their younger guys and that I wouldn’t have played much so I decided against it. Since then I’ve really tried to stay hidden from the NBA and polish up my game so I can come back strong. Right now I’m in Australia again playing for the Melbourne Tigers.

PI: You had such a dominant college career but haven’t yet been able to break into the NBA, what do the NBA scouts tell you that you need to do in order to get that break?

JH: Work on my jumper. That’s really it. It’s been the same thing everytime. So right now I’m really working hard with my shooting coach here and have polished up my jumper. I’ve always been able to do the other stuff and have tried to be a good leader. I like working with the younger guys and helping them reach their potential.

PI: You have a new blog launching in the next few days. I know the Wolfpack fans are happy, but what made you decide to start one up and what are your goals with it?

JH: Oh yea, right now the blog is almost ready to launch. I’m just putting a few more updates on it and some more video and stuff. I think it’s a good way to keep people updated on what I’m doing and it gives me a way to interact with the fans. I have a lot of things, like workouts and shooting videos on there. It gives me a way to showcase my new jumper haha.

PI: What are your goals going forward, basketball wise?

JH: I definitely want to work back to the NBA and back to the states. I feel like with my skill set, it’s where I need to be. I know the 1 thing is my shooting and I’m definitely putting in the efforts to get back.

PI: What are your goals gong forward, outside of basketball?

JH: Well, right now, during the Christmas season especially, I think giving back to less fortune is really important. Trying to give kids a good Christmas. Some kids miss out, or don’t know what a real Christmas can be like, so I try to help whenever I can. I’ve always believed that looking out for one another is real important. I think it’s the way everyone should be.

I also am very involved with the African education initiative. Every summer we go to the Congo and help the children build schools and get books. It’s really a great program. We also help them create solar energy and try to do different things to help them grow.

PI: That’s really incredible! I doubt many people knew you were involved with that. Now, something people did know you were involved with is NC State University. You spend four very successful years there. Can you talk about your time there and what NC State means to you?

JH: Oh man NC State means the world to me. It really helped mold me to the man I am today. It was easily the most fun 4 years of my life. Great times, great people. I still have great friends there. I love the Pack I want to come back and be the head coach of the Pack one day. Of course, my daughter will be playing tennis there and some basketball too.

PI: So your daughter is a tennis player? That’s interesting. How’d she get into that?

JH: Haha. Oh yeah, oh yeah. She’ll just do whatever daddy does. If she sees me playing tennis she’ll play tennis, but she sees me playing basketball a lot so of course she wants to do that too. I actually took a karate class with her. I mean she’ll just do whatever daddy is doing haha.

PI: Talk a little about what it’s been like becoming a father?

JH: Man, becoming a dad is the one of greatest feelings ever. You don’t think u could love anyone as much as you love your mom, but then this little person comes into your life and I love her more than anything.

PI: Do you still keep up with any former players?

JH: Oh yeah. Mostly I keep up with the guys that are still around NC State, Tony Bethel, Jordan Collins, Levi Watkins, me and Levi are real close and Engin Atsur, but he’s still in Turkey playing. Oh and my man Will Roach of course.

PI: Being all the way on the other side of the world, are you still able to keep up with the Wolfpack?

JH: Oh of course. I mean, I have to keep up with the Pack. Since I’ve left I’ve gotten to see a lot of the games on TV. I have “The Sling Box” on my laptop, so I have all my cable channels wherever I go. This year I’ve been really busy and haven’t really gotten a chance to see the team. How are we looking?

PI: They’re actually looking pretty good. They lost to a good Northwestern team that I could really see making the tournament, and then beat a Marquette team that was pretty heavily favored. They might not have the most talent in the ACC, but you’d be hard pressed to find a team that plays harder then they do.

JH: Oh ok. That’s what’s up! They beat Marquette, huh? I’m definitely going to have to catch the next game.

PI: So Julius, you had a lot of bigtime plays and big moments in yoru career. What would you say this most memorable is?

JH: Oh wow. Man, this is a hard one. Off the top of my head I’d have to say my freshman year, the shot against Maryland in the acc tournament that I hit. The game where I was feeling the best, I mean, I could easily say UCONN but I expected us to win that game so much, that it wasn’t a surprise to me. Maybe, when we beat UVA my freshman year when they had Roger Mason and that loaded team. Man, I really don’t know. There’s so many it’s hard to pick just one out.

PI: You’ve been all over the world these past few years. How hard has it been to get acclimated and adjust to each new culture and country?

JH: Oh man, in Europe it was tough because of the language barrier. Plenty times, I mean plenty of times, I’m eating steak or chicken and it’s real good, but then later I find out I’m eating rabbit. Haha. That kept happening. . Australia is easier because everyone speaks English. Everyone’s nice and they fall in love with the American culture for sure.

PI: How have you been accepted in Australia? Do you have the same type of popularity that you had at NC State?

JH: Haha. Well yeah, they show a lot of love over here. Not from my ex-team the the 36ers, but yeah, I’m probably the most notable players over here so they show a lot of love.

PI: Where do you see yourself after basketball?

JH: I see myself coaching. I want to just grow old and see myself, wherever I go, take the youngest player and be a tutor and help him along the way. Help the younger guys be better as basketball players but also better as humans.

PI: And where do you see yourself coaching?

JH: Oh, NC State baby…I still bleed that Wolfpack red! You know I have to!

PI: Haha, well thanks so much Julius! We really appreciate you taking time out of your day to catch up with us. Is there anything you want to leave the Woflpack fans with?

JH: Wolfpak fans,
I love you guys and I always will. Keep supporting our young team. We are young but we got some great players and we’re going to make a run for it this year!

**We’d like to thank Julius for taking the time to talk with us and wish him the best of luck in achieving all his goals in basketball and in life.

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Pack in the Pros

Terquavion Smith is a Top-10 Scorer in the NBA G-League



Former Wolfpack scoring guard, Terquavion Smith is going off in the NBA-G League, and is now the 9th best scorer in the NBA G-League.

He’s averaging 24ppg, shooting 40% from the floor and 37% from long range. He’s also adding 5 rebounds and 2 assists per game. But putting the stats aside, his performances have been electric.

His team, the Blue Coats, are an affiliate of the 76ers. The Sixers are being led by Joel Embid (their center), their PG Tyrese Maxey, and PF Tobias Harris. Smith is a SG, and honestly, I think there’s a shot he gets his chance at some point this season. Kelly Oubre Jr has been out with a broken rib, and his replacement, De’Anthony Melton is doing alright, but his stats aren’t all that different than Terquavion’s.

Melton is averaging 12 points per game, shooting 40% from the floor and 40% from 3pt range. He’s adding 4 rebound and 4 assists.

Smith is the more explosive player, but it’s likely the 76ers want to see a little more offensive efficiency before they start thinking about moving him up.

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Pack in the Pros

Former NC State SS Trea Turner Set Phillies’ Record in NLDS



Former NC State All-American Shortstop Trea Turner set a Phillies’ postseason record, collecting 4 hits in Philly’s Game 4 3-1 victory over the Braves. The Phillies first went to the playoffs in 1908, and Turner is the first player to ever have 4 hits in one game.

Turner was 4-4, and was a triple shy of the cycle.

Most people will remember Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos from the NLDS, but it’s Turner that’s slashing 500/.539/.942 in the 2023 playoffs thus far.

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Pack in the Pros

MLB 2023 Season PackPros Roundup



Five former NC State baseball players played in the Major Leagues in 2023. Here’s a roundup of how it went for the four of them.

Shortstop Trea Turner signed an 11-year $300 million contract with Philadelphia heading into the 2023 season. Turner was coming off of his 2nd All-Star game appearance. 2023 was a little bit of a mixed bag for Turner. Through much of the season, the Phillies looked like they had made a terrible investment in Turner, but he finished the season extremely well. He finished his first season in Philly with a batting average of .266, which is the lowest of his career, if you don’t count the .225 he batted in his first year in the MLB, batting .225 in only 27 games. With that being said, his 26 home runs were the 2nd most of his career, and he stole 30 bases for the first time since 2021. Turner’s 102 Runs ranked 10th in the National League, and his 30 Stolen Bases ranked 9th.

Turner was taken with the 13th overall pick in 2014.

Carlos Rodon’s first year in New York was his worst season in the MLB to date. After signing a 6-year $162 million with the Yankees in the offseason, expectations were high for what Rodon would bring to the Yankees. He was coming off of back-to-back All-Star seasons in Chicago and San Francisco. Injury has plagued Rodon at times throughout his career, and the injury bug struck three times this season. As a result, Rodon only started 14 games. He finished the season with a 3-8 record, and a outrageous 6.85 ERA.

Rodon was taken with the 3rd overall pick in 2014.

Catcher Patrick Bailey made his MLB debut this season. He was called up from Triple A to the Giants on May 19. While Bailey’s offensive numbers won’t ‘wow’ you, he was one of the best fielding catchers in all of the MLB this year. In 97 games, Bailey posted a .233 batting average, with 7 HRs and 48 RBI. In fielding, Bailey was the best in the Majors in Framing, 2nd in Pop Time, and 2nd in Caught Stealing Above Average. He ranked 6th, throwing out 15 base stealers.

Bailey was taken with the 13th overall pick in 2020.

Catcher Andrew Knizner entered the year on thin ice with the St. Louis Cardinals organization and the fanbase, but by seasons end, he became a fan favorite. Despite the fact that he is behind starter Willson Contreras, Knizner played 70 games, and looked like a starting MLB catcher in many of them. Knizner finished with a career high in batting average (.241), Runs (30), 2B (11), HR (10), RBI (31), SLG (.424) and OPS (.712). Technically Knizner doesn’t become an undrafted free agent until 2026, signing a 1-year $1.1 million contract in arbitration prior to the season.

Knizner was taken in the 7th round in 2016.

Pitcher Evan Justice was called up to the Colorado Rockies for a brief stint in his first season of professional baseball. Things didn’t go well after the call up, posting an 8.59 ERA in 9 appearances, striking out 7 batters in 7.1 innings. As a result, he was optioned back down to Triple-A. In 2023, Justice pitched in A, AA, AAA and the majors. In the minors, he had an impressive 6-1 record with a 3.49 ERA, striking out an impressive 63 batters in 38.2 innings. Opponents batting average against him was a putrid .131, and his WHIP was 1.11.

Justice was taken in the 5th round in 2021.

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Pack in the Pros

PI EXCLUSIVE: AJ Cole Shares His NC State Story



Former NC State Punter A.J. Cole is now a Pro Bowl Punter for the Las Vegas Raiders. Cole averaged 42.2 yards per punt while serving as the Wolfpack’s punter, which ranks 4th in school history. Since going undrafted in 2019, Cole was signed as a free agent by the Raiders, and he’s been their starter ever since. Cole was named to the Pro Bowl in 2021 and 2022, and earned 1st Team All Pro honors in 2021.

I caught up with Cole, and he shared how he ended up as the punter at NC State, what his time in Raleigh meant to him, how being a Wolfpack football player prepared him for the NFL, what it’s like to play with and against former teammates, and what NC State means to him today.

I’ll let him share his story in his own words.

“I went to the NC State camp in the summer going into my Senior year. They were looking to scholarship a punter. I had started punting in December, right after my Junior season ended, so I was still super raw. The coach that was running the camp set up a competition for Coach Doeren to watch the Punters. To qualify for the competition, you had 2 chances to hit a 38-yard punt with 3.8 seconds of hang time, which is not that hard. I was pretty nervous though, and shanked my 2 qualifying punts. So they eliminated everyone that didn’t qualify and brought up the guys that were going to kick in front of Coach Doeren. Well, the coach running the camp yells at me to ‘come over,’ and I told him I didn’t qualify. He said “You sure? I’m pretty sure you did. Hop in the line.” So I hopped in the line, and kicked really well. Coach Doeren brought me up to his office after the camp, and offered me a scholarship on the spot

It was pretty funny though, because I had never punted in a game before. So when I got home, they asked me for my hudl highlight tape, so they could watch it as a staff, and I had to tell them I had never punted in a game before, but I’d send them my tape after a couple games.

My experience at NC State was incredible. The biggest thing I always tell people about State is the people are great. From teammates, to coaches, to professors, to the other students, I really just enjoyed the kind of person that NC State attracts. I had a chance to pursue 2 dreams while I was there. I got to chase an engineering degree and play football. Obviously, I’m doing the football thing right now, but if that hadn’t worked out, my NC State degree would have served me well. Raleigh, North Carolina means a lot to me, and it really helped shape me into the man I am.

I feel like NC State prepared me well for the NFL. Being in a consistently competitive environment in the ACC definitely helped adjusting to the level of competition in the league. The facilities are world class, and the strength and conditioning program helped me make some super crucial changes to my body that allowed me to reach my potential.

Playing with Jakobi Meyers again has been awesome. It’s cool to play at this level with guys that you knew from college. We always talk about how the Pack is doing, and we do some reminiscing on the Raleigh days. There’s so many NC State guys in the league right now, it feels like every week I’m seeing an old teammate. That’s really special.

I absolutely still keep up with NC State. I watch all the games I can, and my friends from college are still my best friends.

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