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One-handed Milton guard Zach Hodskins earns respect with smooth stroke



Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.) guard Zach Hodskins (center) was born without a left hand, but that hasn't slowed him on the basketball court. He drained seven 3-pointers in a game earlier this season. / Stephanie Hodskins

By the time Zach Hodskins was 6 years old, he could whip around into a spin move so fast that it typically sent his defender barreling toward the hardwood.

By the time he was 11, Hodskins was a shooting guard at Woodland Middle School (Brentwood, Tenn.), cranking out 31 points a game despite regularly being the focus of the opposing team's defense.

Now 16 and a junior at Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.), Hodskins drained seven 3-pointers, most under heavy duress, in a loss to Christ School (Arden, N.C.) on Nov. 16.

All of the above are impressive feats. All are immediately upgraded to mind-boggling when you consider the fact that Hodskins was born with just one hand.

“He is remarkable,” Milton coach Van Keys said. “Watching him play would be amazing anyway because he’s that good, but when you consider what he’s overcome to be so good, it’s almost surreal.”

Hodskins’ parents, Bob and Stephanie Hodskins, were in similar shock back in February of 1996 when Zach was born with half of a left arm.

“Sometimes you want a reason for things,” Bob said. “There were none. He was born a fully healthy kid just without his other hand. No real reason. We knew that we had to accept it and just live.”

Zach not only accepted it, he embraced it. He even implemented humor, especially when he first arrived at Milton in August and had to answer the million dollar question again.

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“Everyone wanted to know how I lost my arm, which is nothing new,” Zach said. “Now if you think about it, that’s funny because what they don’t know is, I never had it. So I got a serious face and I told them that it got bitten off by a shark. The look on their faces was priceless. I like that story; makes me sound tougher.”

Milton guard Jazz Felton will admit this much, when he learned that “a guy with one arm” was joining the Eagles, Felton immediately scoured YouTube to grade his legitimacy.

“I was amazed at the clips, but it wasn’t until I played with him that I really knew he was a great player,” Felton said. “He can really, really play. Not ‘for a guy with one arm’ kind of play either. He does everything really well, but he can shoot lights out.”

Zach agreed that his greatest weapon on the court is his shooting ability.

This season Zach is draining more than 60 percent of his threes and averaging 12 points a game. He went 7 of 10 from the 3-point line in the loss to Christ School.

Still, while Zach’s stroke is what turns the most heads, it’s his tenacity that impresses Keys the most.

“He’s relentless,” Keys said. “He just goes hard at all times on the court. He’s not intimidated by anything or anyone. He plays with a confidence like there’s nothing he can’t do.”

The first thing most defenders try to do is force Zach to his left, which he said plays right into his hand.

“I’ve worked on countering that so much that I love when they do that,” said Zach, who has already received interest from UAB. “It just gives me so much more room to get my shot off. I’m always thinking about counter-moves and working on them."

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Hodskins knows his success on the basketball court can impact lives, and, yeah, he gets that his story is an inspiration, but he doesn’t want to be solely defined by what he's overcome either.

What Zach wants is much simpler.

“I know that people who don’t know me sleep on me when I walk on the court,” he said. “They don’t think I can play or they don’t know what to think, but it’s when I hit those first few shots or when I go by them is when they wake up. That’s when they start playing me hard. That’s what I love. I know I’ve just earned their respect. That’s all I want.”

Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.

 

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