Enough With Stephen Curry: Meet Lester Hudson
Don't let the headline mislead you: Stephen Curry is one of the finest college basketball players in the country. We all know what he has accomplished in his two seasons at Davidson, yet articles about this Wildcat's magic continue to circulate ESPN, Fox Sports, and even our own site, Bleacher Report.
Even with the departures of Reggie Williams (27.8 ppg), Charron Fisher (27.6 ppg), and Michael Beasley (26.5 ppg), Curry's regular season 25.1 points per game is not the best among returning players.
Lester Hudson, a 6'3" Skyhawk from the University of Tennessee-Martin, bested Curry by six-tenths of a point. Curry raised his average to 25.9 ppg during the Tournament, but Hudson didn't have that opportunity.
Not only is Hudson the NCAA's top returning scorer, but he also ranked fifth in steals (2.8 per game) last season and first among guards in rebounds (7.8 per game). The guard also averaged 4.5 assists per game and shot 38.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Over the course of last season, Hudson tallied eight double-doubles, one triple-double, and scored 25 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished 10 dimes, and accumulated 10 steals en route to the NCAA's first quadruple-double.
Playing for a small school, Hudson made the most of his opportunities against power teams. He posted double-doubles against Memphis (35 points, 10 rebounds), Mississippi State (27 points, 11 rebounds), and UNLV (26 points, 11 rebounds). He dropped 36 points at Vanderbilt and only fell one rebound shy of a double-double.
The Skyhawk possessed the talent to play at any one of those schools, but he stumbled over too many bumps on his journey to college basketball.
Born and raised in a poor section of Memphis, Hudson went through childhood with a negative attitude towards school. He rarely showed up to class, and his grades suffered.
To Hudson, basketball was the only part of life that mattered, yet he never played on an AAU team. He primarily played on the streets of Memphis and was a member of his high school's Varsity squad as a junior. His coach, Andre Applewhite, was able to convince him to keep his grades up so he could play on the team.
He averaged double-figures in scoring as a junior but was ineligible to play as a senior.
In Memphis, all members of high school basketball teams need to be 18 years old or younger, and Hudson turned 19 before his senior season because he needed to repeat an earlier grade. The 19-year-old still had to graduate from high school before he could go to college but did not finish his senior year with grades deserving of a diploma.
No college was permitted to take a high schooler who did not graduate, so Applewhite exhorted his alma mater, Southwest Tennessee Community College, to let Hudson try out.
Hudson dominated the tryout, and STCC immediately signed him.
At STCC, the Memphis streetballer earned his high school diploma, had a 2.5 GPA, and transcended what was expected of him as a basketball player. However, he did not graduate from the junior college because he was unable to meet all of his educational requirements.
Jason James, an assistant coach at Tennessee-Martin, knows that UTM was able to ink Hudson for his last two years of collegiate eligibility because the power schools that he could be "helping get to the Final Four" lost interest when he didn't graduate from STCC.
At 22 years old, Hudson began his academic studies at Tennessee-Martin, but had to sit out for one year as a result of failing to graduate from STCC. He was forced to pay his tuition on his own and has done so by applying for financial aid and taking out student-loans.
Happy to have one more chance, Hudson complied with all the regulations in order to reach his goal of playing Division I basketball.
The game against Memphis was Hudson's debut with the Skyhawks and proved that he was worth the risk that the coaching staff took to sign him. His junior campaign continued to be impressive, and he was awarded with the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year award. The Associated Press listed Hudson as an honorable mention for their All-American teams.
Hudson decided to enter the NBA draft but withdrew before he signed with an agent.
Now 24, he is back at UTM, looking to stay in school, compete with Curry and other guards to be America's best collegiate guard, and continue his climb from an unpromising life to one with tremendous potential.
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