Since returning to the Triangle from Australia, Julius Hodge has been everywhere — N.C. State games, the ACC tournament, sports talk radio, cable television, Twitter — you name it.
The 2004 ACC Player of the Year has basically been the No. 1 Wolfpack basketball fan since he moved to Morrisville after finishing his third season in Australia and first with the Melbourne Tigers.
"It's good to be back around the program," Hodge said. "I love N.C. State and I feel like I have a connection with the fan base."
That was evident at the ACC tournament where Hodge received a standing ovation — the biggest roar of the weekend — during State's third-round loss to Georgia Tech.
It hasn't taken Hodge, who starred for the Wolfpack from 2002-2005, long to ingratiate himself with the team's current players. He has worked out at the Dail Basketball Complex on campus and got a unique look at some of the current players and future players, including McDonald's All-American C.J. Leslie.
"C.J.'s really good," Hodge said. "He's got long arms and to be able to dribble that well and shoot like a guy that's 6-1, he's going to make the Pack a real threat."
All the new options, with Leslie and guards Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown, are going to help forward Tracy Smith, Hodge said.
"I know Tracy's loving it, he finally gets a chance to play one-on-one," Hodge said.
Hodge's basketball journey after helping N.C. State to the NCAA tournament four straight years, started in the NBA with Denver in 2005-06 and then Milwaukee the next season. But his NBA career was derailed when he suffered gun-shot wounds in both legs after a drive-by shooting in April 2006.
The former first-round pick tried pro ball in Italy and France before settling in Australia. Confident as always, Hodge said he'll find a spot in the upcoming NBA summer league and a veterans camp, "if there isn't a lockout."
In the meantime, he has his young daughter Michaela to take care of — and religiously tweet about their trips to Chuck E. Cheese — and he'll hold his first basketball camp (camp24hodge.com) in Raleigh in early June.