Chris Hodges didn’t see any reason to wait.
The 6-foot-8 forward from Schaumburg, Illinois, orally committed to the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program Thursday, becoming the Badgers’ first commitment in their 2021 class.
Hodges averaged 16 points and six rebounds last season as a sophomore. He earned a scholarship offer from UW coach Greg Gard at one of the Badgers’ camps in June.
“When I went there, it felt like home and the coaching staff is so good,” Hodges said during a phone interview Thursday night. “It felt good with me, it felt good with my family. I know it’s early, but it just felt right.”
Hodges plays for the same AAU program — the Illinois Wolves — that produced former UW standout Frank Kaminsky, the 2015 national player of the year.
Wolves director Mike Mullins, who also coached Kaminsky, decided to play Hodges up an age level after his sophomore year in order to challenge him.
“It’s about getting Chris to become more versatile and face the basket instead of just having his back to the basket,” Mullins told Rivals.com. “Playing up is not easy. Even though you supposedly play up in high school, it’s different on the (AAU) circuit.
“We’re going to play him and develop him to play the 3, 4 and 5. It would be easy to leave him as a 5 in the post. But it’s more challenging for him, at least initially, to go out and guard 3s and 4s instead of battling in the post like he does in high school. We want him to experience all that this year.”
Hodges also had offers from DePaul, Rutgers, Loyola of Chicago and Miami (Ohio).
He knew the UW staff had been watching him during the spring but said he was somewhat surprised when he got an offer during his visit to camp this summer.
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“It was an eye-opener for me,” Hodges said. “I played well.”
Asked what position he sees himself playing at the college level, Hodges said he believes he can be a big who can play inside and outside. Although he’s listed at 6-8, Hodges believes he’s already surpassed that mark and is still growing.
“I see myself on the perimeter, still able to bang inside down low,” Hodges said. “Versatile, for sure.”
Hodges is the fourth prep player to commit to the Badgers this summer.
La Crosse Central siblings Johnny and Jordan Davis, both 6-5 wings, committed in mid-June. Carter Gilmore, a 6-8 forward from Hartland Arrowhead, accepted a preferred walk-on offer from UW earlier this month.
The Davis brothers and Gilmore are part of UW’s 2020 class along with Lorne Bowman, a point guard from the Detroit area. Hodges is the first in what could be a large 2021 class for UW, which will be replacing a large senior class after the 2020-21 season.
Hodges said Gard was excited when he delivered the news on Thursday.
“He said he was looking forward for the future, for me to come in and develop into an even better player than I am right now,” Hodges said.
Hodges admitted he could have taken his time and let the recruiting process play out longer. Purdue was among the programs which have shown interest in him.
But he decided there was no reason to wait: He’d found a home with the Badgers.
“I loved the process, so it wasn’t too stressful,” Hodges said. “Now I can just focus on getting better.”