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St. Rose senior Matt Hodge came to the United States from Belgium in the summer of 2022 as one of the best players in New Jersey from the Class of 2024 and one of the 100-or-so best in the country within said class. He just needed time to prove it.

Hodge's meteoric rise since his stateside arrival reached its zenith Friday when the 6-foot-8 Purples Roses star announced his non-binding verbal commitment to play his college basketball at Villanova University.

Hodge follows in the footsteps of his St. Rose head coach Brian Lynch, who starred at Christian Brothers Academy and at Villanova before putting together a long professional career overseas.

It was in in Belgium that Lynch became good friends with Hodge's father, Odell, and has known both Matt and younger brother Jayden -- a sophomore at St. Rose -- since they were born. Odell Hodge was a standout at Old Dominion and a professional teammate of Lynch's.

In his first high-school season in the United States, Hodge established himself as one of the state's best all-around talents and a First-Team All-Shore player while taking St. Rose to new heights as a program. He averaged 14.75 points per game, 9.6 rebounds, four assists, 1.75 steals, 1.4 blocks and well above 50 percent shooting from the field for a Purple Roses squad that went 24-5 with a first ever trip to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and the first NJSIAA sectional title since 2002.

It took longer for Hodge to draw national attention than it did for New Jersey to take notice, but he eventually made haves on the national recruiting scene during the spring and summer. Hodge's recruitment started to pick up at the end of the high-school season with offers from Virginia Tech, Maryland, St. Louis and Old Dominion, then exploded over the summer with the likes of Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Marquette, Penn State and Alabama coming in with offers to Hodge.

St. Rose junior Matt Hodge drives to the rim while guarded by Roselle Catholic senior Simeon Wilcher. (Photo: Tom Smith |
St. Rose junior Matt Hodge drives to the rim while guarded by Roselle Catholic senior Simeon Wilcher. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Villanova is heading into its second season under head coach Kyle Neptune, who succeeded two-time national championship coach Jay Wright. In 2022-23, Villanova fell short of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

Hodge is the second Shore Conference player in the last five years to commit to Villanova, joining former Ranney star and Shore Conference all-time leading scorer Bryan Antoine.

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