Will Hudson comes of age in NZ
There are plenty of hoopsters in this world only too happy to talk themselves up when things are rolling their way. It's fair to say Will Hudson is not one of them.
The 23-year-old first-year New Zealand Breaker has come of age over the tricky holiday road stretch in the Australian NBL, playing key roles in all three victories as the league leaders have gone 3-0.
Victories at Adelaide (71-66), Cairns (66-61) and Wollongong (78-76) have taken the Breakers' winning streak to four, their away record to a league-best 6-2 and their overall mark to an impressive 12-3. That outstanding festive feat has enabled the back-to-back champions to keep their noses in front of the equally impressive Perth Wildcats (10-4).
Hudson has been a huge part of the Breakers' success and will be again as they look to make it a perfect 4-0 for the holidays at the red-hot Townsville Crocodiles tomorrow night.
The 2.06m American is averaging 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in the trifecta of road victories and his emergence as a consistent and efficient contributor off the bench has helped the Breakers get over the hump in three tight contests.
He is shooting at a sensational 70 percent clip and is also getting the minutes (22 a game) that his contributions deserve. All in all the big man from Wisconsin is in a pretty decent place as he finds his niche with this established squad.
Not that you'd know it talking to him ahead of today's third straight trip across the ditch.
"I'm just trying to find my way," says Hudson. "It doesn't happen overnight. It's a constant process and a constant grind. That's what I'm focused on - just grinding it out."
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis is not the slightest bit surprised by Hudson's steady improvement. This is why they recruited him, and it was always going to be a process that took time as he found his role in such an established and successful team.
"He just gives effort, and now he's starting to find a comfort level within our systems as to where to channel that energy and where his opportunities are going to come," says Lemanis.
"Defensively he's great. He can switch on to bigs and can switch on to littles, he boxes out well, rebounds well, and offensively he's getting himself in the right spot. He has come up with key offensive rebounds in all three games."
Hudson says work ethic is something he's always prided himself on since his days as a blue-collar forward for Oakland University.
"That's how I've been my whole career," he shrugs. "My college coach taught me if you want to get somewhere you've got to work hard at it and with the programme we had my whole mentality was just to outwork the other person. That [attitude] is why I'm here today."
It's clear Hudson, a guy who understands his limitations and his strengths, is figuring things out at an organisation he's got a heap of respect for. The bench role is something he has done before, but took some getting used to again, while he's also loving playing with the outstanding Cedric Jackson.
"He's a big man's dream point guard. He's somebody you want to play with, because he'll throw it to you if he thinks you're open."
Hudson has also developed a fair appreciation for what's made the Breakers so tough to beat in this league.
"Everybody competes really hard, and at practice it's harder than games. That's the veterans right there telling you how it's supposed to be. Practices are supposed to be tougher than the games."
Hudson is a real homeboy (he has the map of Wisconsin tattooed on his shoulder) and admits he's found it tough at times being so far away from home for the festive season. But younger brother Andrew has been here since mid-December, and that's helped him immensely.
"There's a piece of me always missing home and that won't change," he adds.
Winning helps, and so does his emergence as a key member of the rotation. You might not find Hudson tooting his own horn, but the Breakers know too well how crucial he's been the last few weeks.