With his parents in attendance and 2:06 left to play, a walk-on headed to the scorers table to check into the game and received the biggest cheer of the night.
Zach Hodskins is not an ordinary basketball player. The 6-foot-4 freshman from Alpharetta, Georgia, has been without the lower half of his left arm since birth and overcame the odds to earn a spot on Florida’s roster.
Friday night, Hodskins’ toughest opponent though was his nerves.
“It’s kinda like the first time I did public speaking. I was really nervous, then after I did it once I was fine. I think that I’m gonna be fine if I get in again,” Hodskins said.
Despite the pleas for him to pull the trigger anytime he touched the ball, his only shot attempt came on a looping layup attempt that wouldn’t fall, much to the disappointment of the remaining 10,861 people in attendance.
But for Hodskins, it wasn’t about individual performance. His mind was on the status of teammate Dorian Finney-Smith, who left the floor in the first half with a wrist injury. He also mentioned multiple times that the most important thing to him was that his team pulled out the victory, whether he scored or not.
“I’ve always dreamed of being here, and tonight I feel like I fulfilled that dream and now I’m just gonna take the next step forward,” Hodskins said. “…It didn’t really matter (if I played tonight or not), I was hoping I would, I’m glad I did but I’m glad that my teammates played well. I hope that Doe-Doe’s wrist heals and we’ll be fine.”
His teammates notice his efforts too. Guard Michael Frazier said it was “Great for him,” to get in the game and highlighted how Hodskins always has a positive attitude in practice.
For Hodskins the experience has been a “great fun ride,” and the biggest challenge he faces is a adjusting to the speed of the game, he told alligatorSports. He’s thankful for a strong team around him, that sees him as just another one of the guys.
“I love it, I mean as long as they treat me like a normal human being and a player and their friend I’ll be just fine,” Hodskins said.
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Freshman Zach Hodskins goes up for a layup during Florida's 68-45 win against William & Mary on Friday in the O'Connell Center.