Four years, four schools.
Markell Lodge floated around quite a bit in high school before committing to Saint Joseph’s in September of 2013, while a senior at Pace Academy in Carrboro, North Carolina. After arriving to Hawk Hill, Lodge was informed he’d have to redshirt his freshman year due to his high school work not being properly transferred to the NCAA.
“I honestly didn’t know about it until I met with Coach [Phil] Martelli,” Lodge said. “I didn’t know what the plan was until I got on campus and met with Coach Martelli and Coach [David] Duda because at first I didn’t really know what was going on.”
Lodge began his high school journey at Washington High School before transferring to Miller School in Charlottesville, Virginia, for his sophomore year. His junior year was spent at Christian Faith Center Academy, which was closed down at the end of the year following an investigation into their English and mathematics programs, according to Lodge. Finally, Lodge ended up at Pace Academy for his senior campaign.
“It was very frustrating because I was not prepared to move that many times,” he said.
While redshirting, Lodge wasn’t even allowed to practice. Staying in good physical shape and in good basketball shape was crucial to the new Hawk in order to return his sophomore year ready to play.
“I think [redshirting] set him back in basketball terms, for sure,” Martelli said. “Luckily, he had great teammates and had guys that watched out for him. Taking the game away from a kid at that age, whether it was for the right reasons or not, is very daunting.”
Brian Bingaman, Director of Strength & Conditioning, worked Lodge out intensely, making sure he was running a lot, following a good diet, and gaining weight.
“’Bing’ worked me out heavy,” Lodge said. “He told me he wanted me to be in better shape than anyone on campus.”
Former SJU forward Papa Ndao ’15 was also a redshirt during Lodge’s freshman year, battling medical issues. Ndao took the freshman under his wing, teaching Lodge how to play the forward position and how to make the most of his back-to-the-basket game.
“[Ndao] was showing me all the little things that he did in the game that translated to a workout,” Lodge said. “That’s how I got motivated to be working even harder so I could be back on the court.”
While the Hawks traveled to away games, Lodge would go to the O’Pake Recreation Center on campus to workout, run, and play pick-up basketball games to stay in good shape.
On November 13, 2015, Lodge made his SJU debut against Drexel University, becoming the first in his family to play Division I basketball. The Hawks won a nailbiter, 82-81.
After hearing the news that Lodge would have to sit out his freshman year, Lodge’s father told him to just keep working hard and to stay positive, advice that has stuck with him to this day. Finally stepping onto the court of Hagan Arena in a Hawk uniform lifted a great, year-long weight off of Lodge’s shoulders.
“It was a relief,” Lodge said. “It was something I really can’t explain. Being on the floor, being able to play, I was like, ‘I’m here now. Let’s make it happen.’ That’s something I will never forget.”
In the Hawks’ next game, they beat Niagara, 73-62. Lodge played 11 minutes and scored his first four career points in addition to grabbing six rebounds.
His second year on campus culminated in an Atlantic 10 championship for SJU and an appearance in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.
As a redshirt sophomore last season, Lodge was the only Hawk to start all 31 games for SJU and led the team in blocked shots with 29. The team’s opener against Toledo was also his first collegiate start. Additionally, the season featured an appearance on the SJU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for Lodge.
“They made it seem like it was me not being ready, but I was ready [for college],” Lodge said. “When they made it seem like I couldn’t do the work, it made me want to work even harder to try to get the highest grade I could get in that class to prove to everybody, ‘he can actually do this work.’”
Lodge has worked hard in the classroom and valued education since the day he stepped on SJU’s campus, and prior to his arrival as well. He credits much of his motivation to his teammates and his coaches.
“I had good teammates around me that kept me motivated and told me to stay hungry,” Lodge said.
During recruitment, Martelli sent Lodge a text message every morning with a motivational quote, a practice continued throughout Lodge’s college career. Martelli’s constant care for Lodge is something Lodge says was key in his decision to choose SJU over other possible programs such as Murray State, Oklahoma State, and East Carolina.
“Coach Martelli was the only one that stayed in my ear all the time,” Lodge said.
Lodge now offers advice to high school athletes looking to play at the Division I level.
“I don’t want people to go through what I went through in high school,” Lodge said. “Make sure in high school, you talk to your guidance counselor. Talk to as many people as you can and make sure you’re on the right track because you never know.”
As painful for Lodge as it was to not be able to play during his freshman year, his plans are to continue playing basketball for as long as he can.
“Hopefully, in God’s will, the plan is the NBA, but you always have to have backup plans,” Lodge said. “If I don’t make it to the NBA, then maybe overseas.”
Lodge is expecting to graduate in December of 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication studies, which he’d like to use to become a television sportscaster or basketball analyst.
“The key is you have to put your mind to things,” Lodge said. “If you want to succeed, put your mind to it and you will succeed.”