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The question of whether Rob Hodgson could still enroll at Penn if he so desired became a moot one yesterday, when the Indiana basketball transfer signed scholarship papers to attend Rutgers and play basketball for coach Bob Wenzel. Only a week ago today, Hodgson -- a 6-foot-7, 220-pound Long Island, N.Y., native -- arrived on the Penn campus apparently set to enroll in classes here. He registered at the High Rise East desk and received his room keys. In the latest bizarre twist in a recruiting saga that dates back to last winter, however, Hodgson packed up his bags and headed home in the middle of the night less than 12 hours after arriving. "People are focusing on that instance because it happened so late in the process," Hodgson said from Rutgers yesterday. "But I've been registered for classes and had my schedule in hand at other schools, and ended up returning home." Such was life in the odyssey that was the Rob Hodgson recruiting campaign. It was a rollercoaster affair for fans and coaches alike at each school that had a shot at the third all-time leading scorer in New York state high school history. As early as June the Penn coaches thought they might be hearing from him at any minute. The Hodgson family has been saying virtually every night for the last month that a decision would be forthcoming immediately. Even on the day he came to Penn last week, Hodgson said he reached Penn Station in New York not sure whether he would get on a train to Penn, to Rutgers or to Fordham. "When I transferred from Indiana, I had a second chance. But I knew I didn't have any more second chances," Hodgson said. "I had one more shot. It was like, 'God, I don't want to waste this one.' "What a lot of people don't realize is the decision-making process didn't start for me right after I transferred from Indiana. My primary focus was on getting my Associate's degree [at Suffolk Community College], which I would need to go anywhere except an Ivy League or Patriot League school. It was only around June or July that we really started focusing in on my top choices. Everything before that was basically fact finding." The fact that ultimately tipped the scale toward Rutgers, Hodgson said, was its membership in the Big East conference. This will be the first season of Big East basketball for the Scarlet Knights. "There's an aura of excitement surrounding the Big East," he said. "I was definitely drawn to that." Penn coach Fran Dunphy said last night he was happy Hodgson was finally able to reach a decision. "I don't think there was anything we could have done differently as far as the recruiting process?.I have no regrets," Dunphy said. "I'm grateful for the patience the entire [Penn] community has shown," Dunphy added. "Let's just give the young man the benefit of the doubt. We don't always have the answers to all the questions." The schools' respective conferences were but one factor in a decision process fraught with multiple decisions and retreats from those decisions. Hodgson said he felt uncomfortable having his parents pay the cost of tuition at Penn, especially when the alternative was a full scholarship at Rutgers. "My parents, quite frankly, would have been happy no matter which school I chose," Hodgson said. "But I didn't feel as comfortable with the situation [at Penn]." Also coming into play was the relationship between Hodgson's father, Bob Hodgson, and Rutgers coach Wenzel. The two men have known each other since they played on the same high school basketball team in New York. "We are very appreciative of Bob Wenzel," the elder Hodgson said in a statement. "He showed a great deal of patience throughout the entire process. There are a lot of coaches who would have moved on to another player who could have given them a quicker answer." Rob Hodgson said he would have enjoyed playing for Dunphy as well: "Coach Dunphy is a real good person and runs a class program. Coach Wenzel and us go way back. I'll be real comfortable playing for him." As a result of his transferring, Hodgson, who could see time at shooting guard in addition to small forward, will have to miss Rutgers' first four games. He will be eligible to play Dec. 16 against Wagner and is likely to start almost immediately. The epilogue to the whole saga on the Quakers' side is somewhat less clear. How much of an impact Hodgson would have had on a Penn team that is losing five senior starters will now never be known. Dunphy wants to put the whole affair behind him and concentrate on the 1995-96 season. "I'm happy that now we have the chance to focus in and work with the guys we have to get ready for the upcoming season," Dunphy said.

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