“I look forward to bringing a blue collar style of basketball to A-State.”

Bryan Hodgson Takes Over as Arkansas State’s Big Man on Campus

New A-State head basketball coach Bryan Hodgson is a big man. He towers over Athletic Director Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Jeff Purinton. His throat is a canvas bag stuffed with gravel. He looks like Richard Mauser in “The Thing.” Had he approached the podium waving a battle axe, I doubt if anybody would have found it out of place.

“I have core values I live by every day,” said Coach Hodgson. “Gratitude, Truth, Toughness, and Loyalty.” He entertained a capacity crowd at the Centennial Bank Athletics Operations Center with hardscrabble tales of his humble beginnings as an assistant/bus driver at Midland. He brought down the house with an amusing anecdote about his first meeting with Nate Oates, who arrived to Buffalo by giving Hodgson a Challenge of Hercules.

“I like you, Bryan. I’m sending you a one way ticket to Buffalo. If you manage to fill our five scholarship openings,” said Oates, “I’ll hire you on as an assistant. If you don’t, well, you’re on your own.” Hodgson filled those positions, and would eventually follow Oates to Alabama.

It’s the kind of story that neatly sums up Bryan Hodgson, a foster-care kid done great. He succeeds by outworking everyone around him, earning a bregrudging respect from the college basketball community. Michigan head coach Juwan Howard reached out to Arkansas State System President Chuck Welch to sing Hodgson’s praises. “He’s kicked our butts at recruiting,” said Howard, who said Hodgson plucked at least four guys from his grasp.

Recruiting is Hodgson’s “thing.” He was not sky about his abilities in that regard. He claims to have begun recruiting as a college player at Jamestown CC, and that he was so effective at it that he ended up recruiting a talent that cut into his own minutes. In 2020, Hodgson recruited an Alabama class that included 247Sports five-star guard Josh Primo, the No. 1 junior college guard Keon Ellis, four-star power forwards Keon Ambrose-HyltonDarius Miles, and Alex Tchikou, and Yale grad transfer forward Jordan Bruner.

Hodgson will likely find recruiting to Tuscaloosa easier than to Jonesboro. However, his abilities to allure and to lure were underscored at the introductory press conference when he invited three of the high-profile Red Wolves who had recently put their names in the transfer portal: Terrence Ford Jr, Caleb Fields and Izaiyah Nelson. Hodgson had convinced each to pull his name from the Portal and stay.

Hodgson was modest about his feat of strength. “Each told me they wanted to stay in Jonesboro,” he said.

Retaining the services of the program’s three most coveted talents is a sparkling move, but Hodgson will have plenty of blue collar work on his plate once he becomes accustomed to that new office smell. As it always seems to be, the Red Wolves need a more physical presence in the paint. The team needs second and maybe even a third “hot hand” to compliment Ford. Assistants must be hired.

For now, Hodgson is in Charm Jonesboro Mode. During his presser, he talked about the importance of having experience on the roster. “In college athletics now, you know the phrase, you want to stay old. We just lost to San Diego State in the Sweet 16. I think the average age on that team has gotta be like 28. If it’s not, it felt like it.”

The crowd in attendance erupted in cheerful laughter. The Big Man on Campus has already won.

PHOTO CREDIT: A-State Athletics