Hodskins plays a key role for Milton

Douglas Fritz • Jan 1, 2014 at 4:35 PM

A lot of kids from Kentucky grow up dreaming about playing college basketball.Zach Hodskins is one of them.He’s 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and blessed with a lot of physical abilities most kids only wish they had. He’s strong, a passing wizard, a sturdy ballhandler, and has the kind of soft shot and shooting range college coaches love.During the recently completed Arby’s Classic at Viking Hall in Bristol, where Hodskins’ Milton, Ga., team finished runner-up to Greater Atlanta Christian, it didn’t take long to see Hodskins has Division I skills. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise he has committed to the University of Florida as a preferred walk-on.Playing with a zest for the game makes Hodskins special on the basketball court. So the fact he was born without the lower half of his left arm only tells a portion of his story.Christ Presbyterian Academy head coach Drew Maddux, whose team Hodskins hurt with 15 points in the semifinals, saw the determined athlete after he moved from Kentucky to Tennessee as a youngster.“I’ve always admired him,” said Maddux. “He’s a great basketball player, first above anything else. But then you think about what he overcomes every time he takes the court. It puts things on another level of specialness.”For Southeastern Conference basketball fans, keep an eye on Hodskins in the years to come. Anyone who thinks he won’t get a shot for some key minutes somewhere along the way for the Gators probably hasn’t seen him play.— — —Science Hill needs to rethink it’s Arby’s Classic attendance policy. The Hawaii trip in 2011 was deemed a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so it was hard to argue against it.Anything else really falls short. This year Science Hill went to Florida and lost two of three games.The Arby’s helped build Science Hill’s three state championships. Are the Hilltoppers no longer chasing state championship dreams? If they are, suit up, get to Bristol, and play. Man up.Science Hill owes the tournament for helping build the program to what it is today.Northeast Tennessee fans, who have footed the bill to make the Arby’s what is today, deserve the chance to see the Hilltoppers in the post-Christmas tournament.— — —It has been a rough season for Dobyns-Bennett, and the Arby’s Classic only added to the misery.Picked to win the Big Seven Conference in the preseason, the Indians were slow out of the gates before stepping into a five-game tailspin that included Arby’s losses to Murfreesboro Oakland and Mentor, Ohio.The Indians are 5-8 on the season with many of their losses coming by way of fourth-quarter meltdowns. Against Oakland, D-B trailed by two entering the fourth quarter before getting outscored 24-12.Making matters worse, a program that boasts the most career wins of any school in the nation (2,189) pulled out of the Arby’s Classic instead of playing a scheduled consolation game against Sullivan South on Tuesday. The reason, according to tournament officials: A couple of players wanted to go to watch the Chick Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, and wouldn’t be there for the game.It just doesn’t seem like a program with so much pride and tradition would refuse to play for such a flimsy reason.Tournament officials scrambled and put Urspring, Germany, in the event. After a change of heart the Indians tried to get back in, but were turned away — and rightly so.— — —No stranger to Arby’s Classic success, the state of Georgia flexed its basketball muscles for the 2013 event.Putting two of its three teams in the championship game, the Peach State claimed its sixth Arby’s title. Tennessee is the only state with more (13).Greater Atlanta Christian defeated Milton 63-56 for the title Tuesday night at Viking Hall.The Spartans remained undefeated at 14-0, so their victory shouldn’t be a surprise. They play tremendous defense, which helped them survive Oak Ridge in the semifinals and gave them just enough to get past Milton in the finals.Milton was perhaps the more explosive team, but the Eagles didn’t have a defensive answer for GAC’s combination of post Isaiah Wilkins and guard Troy Morrison.Still, Georgia basketball has been quite impressive in the history of the Arby’s Classic.And the fans bought into it as well. Viking Hall was nearly at capacity for the semifinals, and the finals produced about a two-thirds full gym on New Year’s Eve night.— — —Oak Ridge’s Kevin Steen might one day make a name as a baseball player, but it could be hard to top the highlight he produced in the Arby’s Classic.With the Wildcats trailing 28-26 in the third quarter of their semifinal game against Milton on Monday, Steen elevated above the fray and rocketed home a crowd-pleasing one-handed smash-palm dunk.“I don’t know what got into Kevin,” said Oak Ridge head coach Aaron Green. “He tries to do that all the time, but he’s never made one. That will be his claim to fame, a one-handed slam, left-handed at the Arby’s.”Steen’s claim to fame could still come later in life. He’s a Division I prospect as a pitcher, a right-hander boasting a fastball clocked in the low 90s.— — —Johnson County’s Brian Dempsey may have elevated his future enough to catch the college radar.In two Arby’s Classic games, against tough competition, the unorthodox forward totaled 50 points and 20 rebounds.“As a matter of fact, after the Memphis (Hamilton) game there was a message on my home phone from a coach,” said Longhorns’ head coach Austin Atwood. “He’s getting looks now, and this has done great things for him. His confidence is flowing.”As for the Longhorns’ experience in the Arby’s, the two losses could actually help the team get better. Time will tell whether it elevates their play enough to make a run at the Three Rivers Conference title. But they should find out sooner as opposed to later since the ‘Horns visit Elizabethton (Jan. 7) and Unicoi County (Jan. 10) for their next two games.“We know it was an honor to get invited to the Arby’s,” said Atwood. “We’ve got two huge games coming up back to back, and we will try to get better during these next 10 days of practice.“The conference title is up for grabs. We missed a two-footer or we would be 4-0 right now. When we lost that game to Sullivan South, one of my assistants said it really hurt. I said, ‘Wait until you see how bad it hurts about a month from now.’ ”

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