His academic troubles behind him, little-known Lester Hudson is putting up bignumbers for Tennessee-Martin
WHENTENNESSEE-MARTIN guard Lester Hudson had the first quadruple double in NCAADivision I history earlier this season, he was disappointed the feat only got abrief mention on SportsCenter. After all, "Michael Jordan and Magic Johnsonnever did it," Hudson says.
Granted, theygenerally faced tougher competition than Division II Central Baptist, againstwhom Hudson had his 25-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist, 10-steal performance onNov. 15, but the 6'3" junior is no one-shot wonder. Hudson has also shoneagainst big-time foes Memphis (35 points and 10 rebounds), Mississippi State(27 points, 11 rebounds) and Vanderbilt (36 points). At week's end he wassecond in the nation in scoring, averaging 26.9 points, and was tied for secondin steals (3.4 a game). Not bad for a guy who played just one year at Memphis'sCentral High because of academic troubles that almost derailed his careerentirely.
Now 23, Hudsonwas raised in a "distracted environment in a rough neighborhood,"according to Central High coach Andre Applewhite. When he did show up atschool, Hudson says, he would "just go to the gym and play basketball."After Applewhite spotted him in gym class his sophomore year scoring at willagainst varsity players, the coach pulled Hudson aside and persuaded him toimprove his schoolwork and come out for the team.
Hudson made hisdebut as a junior, and he averaged double figures in points and rebounds, buthe turned 19 the next summer, making him too old to play his senior season.Again his grades suffered, and he left school without a diploma.
Applewhite,however, contacted Verties Sails, his former coach at Southwest TennesseeCommunity College, and recommended Hudson to him. "Lester was streetwise,but not book smart," Sails says. "He had never sat down and done thework." Hudson earned his GED in his first semester at Southwest, and thenwent on to play two seasons for the Saluqis, averaging 18.0 points his secondyear. He drew recruiting interest from Colorado, USC, Michigan State, Illinoisand Tennessee, but his poor grades led him to sign as a Prop 48 with UT-Martin,where he sat out last season.
With reneweddiscipline in the classroom, Hudson is now carrying a 2.5 GPA, and on the courthe's earning praise for his unselfishness. "If he comes down on the fastbreak and the right play is to give it up, he does so willingly," saysVanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. His own coach, Bret Campbell, loves Hudson'stenacity at the defensive end, where he pounces on any loose ball or lazy pass.Campbell, who coached NBA players Trenton Hassell and Bubba Wells as anassistant at Austin Peay, says Hudson is "a more complete player thaneither of them." In a 61--43 win at Samford on Jan. 24, Hudson showcasedhis versatility on one second-half play. He easily penetrated on a two-on-twofast break, only to have his shot spin out. He snatched up the loose ball,dribbled to the corner and dropped in a fadeaway three-pointer with a defenderin his face. The basket iced the game for the improving Skyhawks (10--12), whohave already exceeded last year's win total of eight.
"He knowsbasketball is a way out," says Campbell. "I think he'll do whatever ittakes to succeed."
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In addition to Lester Hudson's historic quadrupledouble, three players have notched triple doubles this season:
KENNY GEORGE, UNC Asheville
The 7'7" junior center (right) racked up 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10blocks against Campbell on Nov. 17.
TERRENCE WILLIAMS, Louisville
The 6'6" junior forward has been doubly impressive: After scoring 14points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing 13 assists against Hartford on Nov.17, he had exactly 10 of each against Seton Hall on Jan. 19.
JARVIS VARNADO, Mississippi State
The 6'9" sophomore, who leads the nation in blocked shots (5.1 a game), had10 swats, 10 points and 12 boards against Kentucky on Jan. 15.
OPENING ACT In his first game in Division I, Hudson scored 35 against Memphis.
SARA DAVIS/AP (GEORGE)