Young talent abounds, on both ends of town

Photo by Robb QuinnJamie Hodges, Jr. of Michigan City works inside for a shot as Marquette's Jason Kobe guards him in Saturday's game. Hodges scored 20 points in his high school debut. Both players are freshmen.

MICHIGAN CITY -- "20 and 10."

Jamie Hodges, Jr. had specific points and assists goals for his varsity debut Saturday against Marquette and the Michigan City freshman guard just about reached them.

"That I scored 20 in my first varsity game," Hodges said of what he'll remember years from now about his first game in high school.

At this rate, the memories are going to be many for the talented 14-year old, who entered the program with a plenty of hype and showed, based on his first outing, that it's all justified.

"He's mature beyond his years," Wolves coach Tom Wells said. "I told his dad you don't get that out of a freshman very often. You almost expect the highs and lows and you just don't get it. Usually, there's going to be five to seven turnovers attached to it and there's not. We've got a lot of 5-8 guys and all of 'em don't play like they're 5-8."

Against Marquette, Hodges showed he's already comfortable running the offense. He showed he get to the rim and he showed he has a soft stroke, hitting a 3 as well as making nine of his 11 free throws. The skill set not withstanding, the most impressive aspect of Hodges' game may have been, as Wells alluded to, his poise. He is completely comfortable in the moment. 

"I came out a little nervous, but I got it together," Hodges said. "It was fun. I just gave it all I've got. I played a lot of good defense, gave good effort and we won the game."

Hodges credits his high level AAU experience with the Indy Heat of the Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) for his preparation. 

"I've been playing up all my life," he said. "I came out ready for it."

As with all of his teammates, Hodges loves the liberties that Wells gives them on the offensive end. 

"He just lets us run up the court," he said. "We don't have to call plays. He just lets us be free."

While Hodges shined the brightest among the young talent on the floor, it wasn't exclusive to the Wolves. Marquette was led by sophomore Brit Harris' 19 points. Freshman Gary Lewis scored 11 and classmate Jason Kobe had four, missing a stretch of the game while being checked out for a concussion. Lucas Balling, yet another ninth-grader, returns tonight for the Blazers, missing their opener while coming back from Spain.

"Brit is a nice player. He's going to grow into his body," coach Fred Mooney said. "Balling's a 6-4 kid who can shoot. Lewis is a great defender. You're going to hear a lot about him."

The glaring difference at this point is the depth and experience that surrounds Hodges for M.C.

"We're not very deep and we're young," Mooney said. "There's room for everybody to grow. We can't blame it on our youth all season. We've got to get better."

It's great to see Michigan City and Marquette playing each other again. It'll be even better to see their flock of new talent develop over the next three, four years.

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