Hudson shares past with school children
Tracy Sharp, Managing Editor
The 6-2 senior who led the UT Martin Skyhawks to their first Ohio Valley Conference title this year is projected to be a first-round NBA draft pick. Hudson, who averaged 27.5 points this past season which is second best in the nation, spoke to the D.A.R.E. graduating class Wednesday about the choices he has had to make to get where he is today.
The road to his continuing success was long and winding for the award-winning athlete, who talked candidly with students of his troubled past and how he had to make hard choices throughout the years to move toward reaching his dream of playing professional basketball.
“I was running in the wrong crowd,” Hudson said from the podium to the hushed crowd. “I was arrested and I went to juvenile.”
He said he got in trouble again and went a second time to juvenile detention, and that when he was a kid, he loved basketball but he “didn’t like the class work.”
“I went to ninth grade, and had to repeat it,” he said. “In 10th grade, I tried out for basketball. Coach told me I could play if I started getting good grades.” Because Hudson failed one year, he had to sit out for a year. In his career, he would end up being redshirted three times. He attributes a great deal of that to not staying on task with his academics.
“It’s very important to get your grades,” citing that when he came to UTM from Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis, he ultimately reached the goal of having a 3.0 and heading to a Division I school.
He said mistakes were made along the way, but the one thing he never did was drugs.
“I never wanted to do anything to hurt my career in basketball,” Hudson added. “I had the opportunity, but I never did them.”
UTM Skyhawk assistant basketball coach Jason James, who is in his seventh season with the team, told the graduates that Hudson did not have a favorable history and told the students that he ended up making a choice by taking school seriously. It was James that encouraged the young player to come to UT Martin and learn some study skills before he could play for the Skyhawks.
It was this lesson by James that Hudson took to heart.
The coach told of the time that the team was practicing and Hudson’s team was behind. When James mentioned it, Hudson turned around and told him “With Lester Hudson, you always have a chance.”
“But,” James told the students, “you also have a choice. He chose to do the right thing.”
The graduation was attended by members of the Martin Police Department, and MPD school resource officer/D.A.R.E instructor Christie Lifsey handed out awards and diplomas to the children.
“If you ever need me as you move on to middle school,” she said. “I’ll be there.”
D.A.R.E.’s primary mission is to provide children with the information and skills they need to live drug-and-violence-free lives.
The mission is to equip youth with the tools that will enable them to avoid negative influences and instead, allow them to focus on their strengths and potential.
Hudson took questions from the audience.
When asked which team was his favorite, he said when he was a child the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordon but now he prefers the Miami Heat and Dewayne Wade. One student asked which NBA team he wanted to be on, but he said it really didn’t matter, he just wanted to play basketball.
The children gathered around the basketball star who recently returned to Martin after attending last month’s Final Four. Hudson was one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and was named to the All Senior All-American second.
Hudson, who returned to the UT Martin for his senior year after flirting with the idea of leaving school early in order to make himself available for the NBA draft, is 16 hours away from obtaining his degree.
As he signed autographs and shook the hands of each graduate who is heading into the new world of middle school, Hudson is heading to a new world himself.
He has lived the lesson he conveyed to his fans at Martin Elementary School. Hudson’s right choices are heading him into the NBA.