All Zach Hodskins has asked for since arriving on the Florida campus as a preferred walk-on guard was to be treated like any other player.
“I just want to come in and make sure I work as hard as any other player,” Hodskins said. “I want to be recognized for that.”
Hodskins received national attention when he accepted a walk-on spot at Florida last year. The one-handed basketball standout from Milton, Ga., served as an inspiration because of his ability to overcome his birth defect to play basketball at a high level.
But through the first few weeks of practices, Florida coach Billy Donovan admitted it’s been tough for Hodskins to adapt to a higher level of competition.
“I really admire his passion and enthusiasm,” Donovan said. “I think, for him he’s got a great platform in terms of his persistence every single day to try and come out there and battle and compete to the best of his ability. Talent-wise, I think he’s over his head, but I think he can bring some value to our team and help our team get better.”
Walk-ons rarely play at Florida, with fifth-year senior forward Jacob Kurtz being an exception. Kurtz appeared in 26 games for the Gators last season and was a rotation player early when the Gators were hamstrung depth-wise due to early season injuries and suspensions. Kurtz provided a lift for the Gators last season in a 67-66 win over rival Florida State, finishing with 8 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.
For the 6-foot-4 Hodskins to get to that level will take persistence, but teammates admire his work ethic.
“If he can do it, then we have no excuse to not do it,” Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith said. “And Zach, he’s a great player, don’t get me wrong. If he’s going to play, he’s going to score on you. I just think if he can push through, anybody else can.”
Those who have watched Hodskins’ YouTube video have witnessed his hustle on the press and his ability to create space and make long-range shots while dribbling and shooting with the same hand. Hodskins could get some minutes late in UF’s exhibition game against Barry, but his contributions to the team will more than likely occur behind the scenes in practice.
For now, that’s a role Hodskins seems willing to accept.
“I just want to make my teammates better,” Hodskins said. “We’re striving to get better every single day. That’s the main goal. I’m going to do anything in my power to make my teammates better and make the team better.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway’s blog at Gatorsports.com.