Julius Hodge dominates in return to Australia

The spectacular National Basketball League return of controversial American Julius Hodge has seen the newly-signed Melbourne Tigers guard win the NBL Player of the Week award for Round Eight.

Hodge, whose last stint in the NBL ended in an acrimonious split with former team Adelaide, was signed by the Tigers last week.  Despite having little time to learn his new club’s offences, Hodge still managed to score 22 points and add nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in his debut in Melbourne colours on Saturday night.

Hodge connected on 9-of-21 of his shots from the field and helped keep the Tigers in close contention with the visiting Townsville Crocodiles.  Unfortunately his efforts still saw the Tigers fall short, with Melbourne losing to the Crocs, 98-91.

The flamboyant superstar said he was pleased with the award but focused on getting his team wins.

“I’m honoured to win the NBL Player of the Week,” he said upon hearing the news of his award.  “Hopefully this Saturday night the team and I can improve and get back on track with a win against the Taipans at The Cage.”

Young New Zealand Breakers’ star Tom Abercrombie was unlucky to miss out on the award for Round Eight after a superlative performance of his own.  Abercrombie helped the Breakers to an 83-74 victory over ladder leaders Perth at the North Shore Events Centre on Thursday night.  Abercrombie scored 23 points and added three rebounds and one block, while shooting 56% from the field and 50% from the perimeter.

The Round Seven winner of the Player of the Week was also a candidate for the award once more in Round Eight.  Adelaide’s Adam Ballinger scored 17 points and added seven rebounds in the Sixers’ 83-76 home win over second-ranked Wollongong on Saturday night.  Ballinger’s teammate at Adelaide, Cortez Groves, was also in the hunt for the award after scoring 15 points and adding nine assists and three rebounds.

Wollongong’s Mat Campbell was another leading candidate, as was Gold Coast’s Ayinde Ubaka.  Campbell, who is known as ‘The Saviour’ after he spearheaded the ‘Save The Haws’ campaign in the off-season which pulled the club back from the brink of extinction, had 22 points, seven rebounds and two assists in his team’s loss to Adelaide.  Ubaka had 17 points, eight assists and three rebounds for the Blaze on Friday in Gold Coast’s 93-77 home win over Townsville.

Other leading contenders for Player of the Week in Round Eight included Stephen Weigh (Perth), Cortez Groves (Adelaide), Peter Crawford (Townsville), Daniel Johnson (Melbourne), Greg Vanderjagt (Gold Coast), Shawn Redhage (Perth), Anthony Petrie (Gold Coast), Russell Hinder (Townsville) and Julien ‘Skip’ Mills (Cairns).

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