'I'll never back down': The Chronicles of Lester Hudson

Monday, September 14, 2009

If you're a serious Celtics fan, you know who Lester Hudson is. You know he was the 58th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, that he played his college basketball at the University of Tennessee-Martin, and that he can play either guard position.

If you're a really big fan, you might even know that he was the NCAA's second-leading scorer last season (averaging 27.5 points per game), and that he is the only NCAA Division 1 player to ever record a quadruple-double. You may know that he averaged 7.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.3 steals for the Skyhawks in his senior season, and that he measured in at 6'1" and 196 lbs., with a 6'9" wingspan, a 36" vertical leap and a chiseled 3.4% body fat.

But how much do you really know? Besides stats and a few facts, do you really know much about Lester Hudson?

Chances are, you've never seen him play. You probably know little about his game besides what you've read on DraftExpress.com or NBADraft.net. You likely know little about the struggles he had to overcome to even play college basketball, and you probably don't know how excited he is to have the opportunity to play for the Boston Celtics.

Luckily, Lester will be giving a series of interviews for Celtics Town. In it, we will delve into his past, explore his current situation with Boston, and do a little speculation into his future.

Here's the first installment of the series of interviews:

Jay King: Can you tell me a little bit about your journey from Central High School to Southwest Tennessee Community College, and finally to UT-Martin?

Lester Hudson: I grew up in a pretty bad neighborhood, but instead of being dragged down by my surroundings I was always determined to do whatever I could to get out of the neighborhood.

I actually didn't know how much I loved basketball until I was able to play for my high school coach. He saw me playing one day and asked me if I would try out for the team. Later on, after I knew how much I loved the game and had finished a successful high school career, I wasn't allowed to play my senior year. Since I had failed my ninth grade year and had to repeat it, they wouldn't let me play during my last year at school. Without basketball, I didn't do my work, and wound up short of graduating high school.

The following year, while I was working on getting my GED, my high school coach asked me if I wanted to go to a tryout for the Southwest Tennessee Community College team – he never lost faith in me, never stopped thinking I could play college ball. I did really well against the players on the team, and I was offered a spot in school and on the team.

By the time I got into STCC, I knew that I needed to work hard in school to continue my dream of playing basketball and escaping my neighborhood. I had two unbelievable years at STCC – I think I was rated one of the top twenty junior college players in the country – but I once again didn't graduate. Because I was behind, I had to take beginner courses to get into the real courses, and I failed to meet all the graduation requirements.

Since I didn't graduate, I couldn't go right into playing college basketball, and I couldn't have a scholarship my first year. I decided to go to UT-Martin, but I had to pay my way for the first year – a year I red-shirted. I received financial aid and took out loans to cover the rest of the money, and I finished up my college career at UT-Martin.

A lot of Celtics fans don't know much about your game. Could you describe your game for us?

I can score the ball really well, get in the passing lanes, and fill up the stat sheet. I rebound, pass, and play defense. Basically, I do whatever my team needs me to do. At UT-Martin, I had to score to help us win, but with the Celtics I'm willing to do whatever the coaches ask me to do, whatever the team needs me to do so we can win.

I consider myself a very good defender. I like to play both ends of the floor because I know that if I'm scoring but then coming back the other way and giving up a bucket, it doesn't help us out. I pride myself in being able to put a lot of pressure on ball-handlers and being a disruptive force.

In college, my coach actually had to ask me to stop applying so much pressure on defense, because I was getting into a little bit of foul trouble. The team needed me on the floor, so I couldn't pick up cheap fouls. In the NBA, I should be able to be an even better defender than I was in college.

I'm an aggressive player on both ends and a very good rebounder who isn't afraid to mix it up down low – despite my size. If I had to describe my game in one sentence, I'd say I am an all-around player and a winner.

How do you feel about being drafted by the Boston Celtics?

I think I'm in the best position of anybody who was drafted. Danny Green (drafted by Cleveland) is the only other player in a comparable position.

First of all, I get a chance to play for the best team in the world. I'm in a great position because I get to play with veteran guys who know how to play the game and are willing to help me out. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis – and I could keep going – those guys are all great players and know what it takes to succeed in this league.

Even playing with those guys in Waltham (at the Celtics' practice facilities), I am trying to let them help me out. Paul Pierce took me aside the other day and taught me different ways to use a pick-and-roll. Coming out of college, I don't know as much about the little parts of the game as these guys do, and I'm just trying to learn as much as I can.

I know you tested the draft waters after your junior year. How do you feel about staying for your senior season?

You know, everything happens for a reason. Coming out of my junior year, I was really close to turning pro. I actually received a lot of good feedback from the teams, and was told I would have gone higher in the draft last year than I did this year.

But everything happens for a reason, and I now have a diploma, which means a lot to me, and a chance to play for the best team in the world. So I would say everything has turned out very well.

How long have you been living and working out in Waltham for?

I've been here for about two months, working on my conditioning, ball-handling and shooting. With my finger, I was only cleared to play full-court last week. I was able to still do all my drills before that, but I wasn't cleared for contact until then.

Now, I'm out here trying to get acclimated to the Celtics and work on my game. The coaching staff told me I should work on my ball-handling the most. In college, I handled the ball a lot and did a good job of it, but nobody really put too much pressure on me. I was the star, and the other team knew if they pressured me I was going to go right by them. Now, with trees like Dwight Howard down low, teams will be able to pressure and not be so worried about me going by them. So I've been working a lot on my ball-handling to be able to handle that NBA pressure.

Everybody else started getting here a couple weeks ago, and now almost everybody is here in Waltham. I'm excited to be able to learn from all the guys and keep getting better.

I think the veterans like me, because they know I want to get better and that I'll never back down from anybody. It doesn't matter who I'm playing, I'll never back down. I could be playing against Kobe Bryant, but I'm going to go after him. It doesn't matter who it is.

Coming out of a small school, do you feel at a disadvantage compared to the players who played better competition?

No. I think I'm ready, and I'm confident in myself. I don't feel that anybody can stop me from scoring the ball.

In college, every team I played knew I was going to score twenty on them, at least. They threw double and triple teams at me, and I had to score against more defensive attention than anybody in the major conferences. If I had been at Duke, Carolina, or Michigan State, I would have had a lot more help. Not to say my teammates weren't good players, they were great teammates, but other teams could get away with doubling or tripling me. At those other schools, where guys have so many other talented teammates, they don't face the defensive attention that I faced every night.

I feel that if I had been on national T.V. eight times last year, I would have been drafted a lot higher. If I was on T.V. eight times, I would have had eight great games in front of scouts. I would have had at least 25 points in front of scouts, eight different times. I would have gotten a lot more exposure, and my play would have spoken for itself.

But everything worked out. I ended up in Boston, and I am in a great situation where I get to work with veteran players who know how to win.

How is your contract situation coming along?

I'm just trying to stay patient and let my play decide my contract. It's up to nobody but me, whether I earn a spot on the team. I'm not worried about it, I'm just out here trying to impress whoever I can... the coaching staff, Danny Ainge, the owners, the weight trainers, the equipment managers, everybody. I'm going to let my play do my talking, and hopefully the contract will work itself out.

Be sure to check out the next installment of the Chronicles of Lester Hudson, which will be posted sometime within the next week or so. In it, we'll go into more depth about Lester's offseason workout regimen and update you on his quest to make the Boston Celtics.


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