Markell Lodge knows a thing or two about getting a crowd fired up.
The 6-foot-7 forward is probably best known among Saint Joseph’s fans for dunks and blocked shots, neither of which ever fail to pump up the crowd. The reactions from fans and his teammates still surprise Lodge a little, but he embraces the role.
“I would say I’m like the energy guy,” Lodge said. “When I go out on the court and I get a block or get a dunk, everybody just jumps up… That shocks me, and that gets the team motivated, also.”
The redshirt senior has been an energetic presence since he arrived on Hawk Hill in the summer of 2014, despite having to redshirt the 2014-15 season. Lodge hadn’t been expecting to sit out the season and he wasn’t allowed to practice with the team, so the transition was tough. Regardless, he was comfortable with the team and coaches and knew he’d be on the court soon enough.
The 2015-16 season rolled around, and Lodge made his collegiate debut in the season-opening win over Drexel.
“I felt very excited and nervous at the same time,” Lodge said. “I was like, ‘Oh, man. This is the first game here and I’ve got the jersey on and everything. It’s official.’”
Of course, the season only got better from there. A 28-8 record. An Atlantic 10 championship. The Hawks’ first NCAA Tournament win since 2004. An exhilarating way for Lodge to launch his collegiate career.
Everyone knew the following season would be challenging, though. The Hawks lost two starters to graduation, one to the NBA, and another one to injury that summer.
Despite the losses looming large, Lodge prepared for the season focused on helping the team however he could. After playing in 13 games for a total of 58 minutes the previous season, Lodge wasn’t expecting what came next.
He was tabbed as a starter for the 2016-17 season and was the only Hawk to start all 31 games.
“Honestly, that came out of nowhere,” Lodge said. “[Assistant] coach [Geoff] Arnold just kept telling me to do what I do best… [Head] coach [Phil] Martelli always has a meeting a couple days before the first game, and he told me [I would be a starter] in the meeting, and I was like, ‘What?’”
Lodge posted career-best numbers across the board and led the team in blocked shots, a bright spot for the injury-ravaged Hawks.
A starting position isn’t guaranteed from season to season, though, and with the incoming freshman class and teammates returning from injury, Lodge wasn’t sure what his role would be in the 2017-18 season. He just kept playing his game, doing what he does best.
Lodge came off the bench again that season, and while the adjustment was somewhat difficult, he made sure he pushed his teammates so they would be prepared on and off the court.
Despite limited playing time, Lodge made the most of his opportunities, putting up some impressive numbers in short stints. Two blocks in nine minutes against George Mason. Two points, two steals, one block, and one rebound in eight minutes at George Washington. That’s what Lodge does: maximizes his time on the court and brings energy.
“I just tried to go all out and then I know that I can get my time to rest and then come right back in and do the same thing,” Lodge said. “That was motivating me right there.”
If you’ve seen Lodge play, you’ve probably noticed he can jump really high. It was never something he had to work on; it’s just always come naturally to him.
Back in high school, Lodge was also on the track and field team, focusing on the high jump. Following his junior season at SJU, he decided he wanted to give it another shot.
“I kept talking to Claudine [Andre] on the track team,” Lodge said. “I was like, ‘I might do track this year,’ and she was like, ‘You’re joking.’ I was like, ‘I did in high school, so don’t be shocked if I come in third or fourth place and have a medal just like you.’ She started laughing and then me and Coach Martelli and [men’s track and field head] coach [Mike] Glavin met and just made it official.”
The footwork and steps of basketball and the high jump have a lot of similarities, according to Lodge, so readjusting to the event wasn’t difficult. In fact, he finished in the top five every time he competed.
Lodge saved his best performance for the A-10 Championship, and he set a personal record of 6' 7 1/2", good for fourth place.
“Honestly, the only thing that was going through my mind was the medals,” Lodge said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘These are some big medals.’ All I want is a medal. Just to go home and say, ‘I got this in the A-10.’”
Although he just missed getting a medal, he’ll have another shot at it during the 2019 outdoor season. His goal is simple: Win a medal so he can wear it and his 2015-16 A-10 Championship ring at graduation.
That’s not Lodge’s only goal this year. He wants to win another Atlantic 10 basketball championship. Leaving Hawk Hill as a champion is the best way to go out, after all. With that in mind, Lodge spent the summer preparing for his final season as best he could.
“A lot of conditioning, running, and a lot of motivation from my family, also,” Lodge said. “They also told me, ‘It’s your last season, so give it all you got because you never know if you’ll get another opportunity playing basketball.’”
Lodge finished his undergraduate degree in December 2018. Since his teammates are still in class, Lodge wants to use his energy to motivate them to do well in classes and have a high team GPA.
There have been a lot of great memories in Lodge’s time on Hawk Hill. It was tough to pick his favorite. He paused to think about it, and decided on two things, both the embodiment of being a Hawk.
“Winning the A-10 championship and cutting down that net was my favorite memory,” Lodge said. “Also, being in the locker room with a group of guys that have my back no matter what.”