Zach Hodskins is a legitimate difference-maker on the basketball court. A fluid shooting guard with a smooth release, Hodskins stars for Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton School's basketball team. In one recent loss, he even connected on an impressive seven 3-pointers, all while being hounded. Some scouts have mentioned him among the most fundamentally sounds players they have seen and called him "deadly from 3-point range."
All those accomplishments are even more impressive when one considers the fact that Hodskins competes with a particularly significant handicap: He only has one hand.
As chronicled by USA Today's Jason Jordan, Hodskins has excelled in basketball despite competing with just a right hand. He was born without any part of his left arm below the elbow, yet his love of basketball made him refuse to give up the sport. The result has been a fairly traditional, albeit rapid, career arc.
"He is a role model to any aspiring basketball player that no matter the odds if you work harder than everybody else 'the sky is the limit,'" Hodskins' AAU coach, Markus Gibbs of the Tennessee Playmakers, told Prep Rally via email. "There is nothing that this kid cannot do and if there is he will definitely work to eliminate that problem!"
Perhaps that confidence comes from all the hurdles Hodskins has already overcome. The teenager played his way through youth basketball, quickly developing a wicked spin move which has helped propel him to where he is today. Not long after he reached a level of proficiency with his ball-handling skills, Hodskins began working on his jump shot.
Together, the two skills made Hodskins a genuine standout by the time he reached middle school, with an 11-year-old Hodskins earning a starting role at shooting guard for Brentwood (Tenn.) Woodland Middle School. In fact, as an undersized 11-year-old sixth-grader, Hodskins was already the focus of opponents' entire defensive sets, yet he averaged 31 points per game … with one hand.
Now Hodskins is emerging as a star at one of the South's great basketball powerhouses, contributing serious points and ball handling to Milton's potent offensive attack while drawing recruiting interest from Division I collegiate basketball programs including the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
"He is remarkable," Milton coach Van Keys told USA Today. "Watching him play would be amazing anyway because he's that good, but when you consider what he's overcome to be so good, it's almost surreal.
"He's relentless. He just goes hard at all times on the court. He's not intimidated by anything or anyone. He plays with a confidence like there's nothing he can't do."
While Hodskins says he benefits from opponents' penchant to drastically underestimate his talent, his teammates insist that he's no pity case; he's a bona fide star regardless of any handicap.
"I was amazed at the clips, but it wasn't until I played with him that I really knew he was a great player," Milton backcourt mate Jazz Felton told USA Today. "He can really, really play. Not 'for a guy with one arm' kind of play either. He does everything really well, but he can shoot lights out."