SouthlandSport editor Nathan Burdon

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Southland volleyballer returns from States with decisions to make

Southland volleyballer returns from States with decisions to make

Volleyballer Sam Hodges has the world at his size 16 feet. 

The Academy Southland leadership year athlete has just returned home from playing for the New Zealand under 20 men’s team in a tournament in the United States and has plenty to contemplate over the next few months. 

Decisions, decisions. Hodges drew plenty of attention from college scouts despite New Zealand winning just one of their games during the high performance tournament in Florida. 

Half a dozen scouts beat a path to the New Zealand management team and Hodges has followed up on a couple of those advances already. 

This week he plans to head to Christchurch to check out the University of Canterbury, while staying in Invercargill and furthering his basketball career with the Southland Sharks is also an option for the Central Southland College year 13 student. 

Just where the future takes him is something he will spend some time deciding, but the lure of a college scholarship is tempting after Hodges returned from his two weeks in the United States with a real case of the travel bug. 

“It’s huge, it keeps me thinking and I don’t know what to think. We are trying to weigh up every single option and make the best decision for me,” Hodges said. 

“I’m quite into my sciences – I might not be good at them, but I’m a big fan of them. I like human health, so the PE route or physio, something along those lines. I’m not thinking anything specific at the moment, but I have a rough idea.” 

An increasing number of young Southland sportspeople, several of them graduates of Academy Southland, have taken up college scholarships in recent years, but they have been exclusively from athletics. 

Hodges is a special talent, however. 

He remains the only Southlander to be selected in a New Zealand indoor volleyball team at any level. 

He’s also aware of five or six New Zealand volleyball players playing for colleges in the United States. 

Those scouts may well have been impressed with Hodges’ versatility after he switched from a blocking role to more of a ball-playing, hitting role for New Zealand. 

They would have certainly been impressed with his size. While he actually stands 206cm in height, the tournament programme added an extra inch to his statistics, making him the tallest player on show during the event at Ft Lauderdale. 

Hodges was a member of the New Zealand under 18 team last year which contested the Asian championships in Iran. 

That visit to the Middle East added a wrinkle to securing a visa to get into the United States – a trip to the United States embassy in Auckland for a one-minute interview was required to cut through the red tape. 

While in the United States, Hodges and the rest of the New Zealand team also visited the Mamba Sports Academy, a 100,000 square foot multi-sport training facility which was relaunched under former NBA star Kobe Bryant’s brand in 2018. 

Hodges and his team mates were the first team from outside the United States to visit the academy, which features a biomechanics lab, a cognitive training lab, and an esports training ground. 

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