“They bleed like I bleed.”

That is Saint Joseph men’s basketball sophomore Markell Lodge’s mindset for this season.

Lodge, a six-foot-seven forward, said that’s the mantra he uses before playing in games, especially against some of the Hawks’ better-ranked opponents.

And so far, it’s seemed to help showcase Lodge’s basketball ability.

Against second-ranked Villanova, Lodge uttered that mantra to himself. Even though the squad lost, Lodge scored six points and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds for the Hawks.

“Going into the game I was nervous,” Lodge said, “But in my head, I was like, ‘they bleed like I bleed.’  There is no point to holding anything back.”

Another big time game for Lodge was a 78-72 loss to Temple. Lodge scored a then career-high nine points with five rebounds against the Hawks’ Big 5 rivals. He has since eclipsed that career high, scoring 10 points at Rhode Island on January 3.

“There was a lot of the crowd into that Temple game,” Lodge said. “It was a great experience.”

Even though the forward isn’t stuffing the stat sheet with gaudy numbers, Lodge is providing valuable minutes in the starting lineup.

Just last season, Lodge saw action in 13 games, averaging around 4.5 minutes per game. Not much time to make an impact, compared to the 18.3 minutes he is averaging this season.

Getting more playing time means a lot to him, Lodge said, because it means he is a big threat in helping his team win games.

“Me doing my part is blocking shots, rebounding, getting an alley-oop dunk or something like that to get the crowd going,” he said. “After that, everything falls into place.”

But with an increase in minutes comes an increase in responsibility.  So, for this season Lodge has been hard at work focusing on his weaknesses.

“Mostly I’ve been working on quickness and using my athletic ability even more,” Lodge said. “I can already shoot it.”

Two of the biggest issues Lodge has had to deal with playing college ball are the tempo and running set plays.  In high school, Lodge averaged 18 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks in his senior year at Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. Most of his points, he said, came from his athletic ability and having an advantage over most high schoolers. And as far as plays went, it was “throw it anywhere near the rim” and Lodge would finish it.

“Now that I am in college I have to remember more plays than I did in high school,” Lodge said. “To me, the game is faster. In high school, there were some games without a shot clock, which made the game slower. In college, you’ve got to get a shot every time down the court.”

Winning the Atlantic 10 championship against VCU last season meant a lot to him for many reasons.

“It was a very great experience, getting an A-10 championship ring,” Lodge said. “That’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

It was meaningful not just because it was a great experience: Lodge is the first in his family to play basketball in college, something he prides himself on.

Heading to the NCAA tournament in Spokane, Washington, was the highlight for Lodge. Beating Cincinnati in the first round and becoming closer as a team is a key component that Lodge remembers about last season – something to keep in the back of his mind if the team wants to return to the NCAA Tournament.

And of course, since Lodge went to school in Virginia, playing against VCU feels different to him than anyone else.   This season the Hawks visit the Rams on February 14.

“I went to school in Virginia,” Lodge said, “so it’s a big-time game for me. It’s going to be fun because I have a lot of friends and family in Richmond. I know the point guard, Jonathan Williams; we played with each other.”

And as for his mindset for the game against VCU, there’s a good chance it’ll be just like every other game: “They bleed like I bleed.”