Basketball has always provided a path for Eva Hodgson.
The game launched her into an uncharted map covered with winding, bumpy roads. Her destination was always clear though, bubbling in the back of her mind. She wanted to stand out.
But she didn’t want the way laid out for her. Rather, she wanted to forge her own way.
She has paved her way from the back roads of Route 124 to the bright lights of the Colonial Athletic Conference, and into the starting five as a freshman for the Division I William & Mary women’s basketball team.
The 5-foot-10 point guard has played in 18 games for the Tribe, starting every one of them, and is averaging 8.7 points per game.
To know how Hodgson came to average 30 minutes a night as a freshman, you have to know a little about her past.
Rindge is a small-town hoops haven, where local legends live on forever in the form of tapestries hung inside the dimly-lit Pratt Auditorium at Conant High School in neighboring Jaffrey.
You have to know her family, rich in basketball tradition. Her parents, Gregory and Sherree, played Division III ball in college. Her older brothers helped bring numerous state championships to town. Hodgson is one of seven siblings, with four older brothers, one of whom, Ezra, played college basketball at Plattsburgh State in upstate New York.
Hodgson set a goal in middle school: play college basketball.
“It was in my blood. That was what I was supposed to be doing,” Hodgson said of her basketball lineage. “It’s something I fell in love with quickly, being able to watch my brothers play.”
But that lineage also posed an early challenge: Hodgson wanted to make her own name.
She did just that, helping the Orioles to their sixth girls’ state championship as a freshman. She then left Conant for New Hampton School, where the guard refined her skills while leading New Hampton to the NEPSAC Class AA final as a senior.
Division I colleges came calling.
She was recruited by a couple of Ivy League colleges, but decided on William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., for its academic reputation, and for another reason that perhaps encapsulates her best.
The Tribe, 11-7, never have won a conference championship and never have appeared in the NCAA Tournament.
“I want to be a part of the first,” Hodgson said. “That’s something we say every day. That is something that drives us. That would be huge and to appear in the NCAA; that’s something that would go down in history.”
Along the way, she has found her game as a solid offensive contributor with a strong shot. She plays with emotion and high-energy, and often is the first to pick a teammate up off the floor. Rare is the moment she is not communicating. She calls herself “personable” on the floor.
That ability to communicate and connect has helped her gain trust from her coaches and teammates. Losing their starting point guard to graduation coming into the season, Tribe Coach Ed Swanson knew Hodgson was responsible enough to run the point on day one.
“She is a tough kid,” Swanson said. “You can knock her down and she rises to the challenge, and I think that is what keeps her out there that long. … You raise the bar and she goes after it.
“She is just scratching the surface for how good she is going to be,” Swanson added. “The intangibles — you can’t measure it on the stats sheet. The players have confidence in her, the upperclassmen. And that is something that you don’t always see in a freshman.”
The transition hasn’t been easy, however. Hodgson has had to learn something with every new move she makes. She has risen from high school to prep, prep to AAU, and now to the college ranks, where teams study her every move on film. Not to mention that Hodgson is a college freshman, adjusting to life on her own, 600 hundred miles from home.
“Not having my comfort zone, I have had some breakdowns,” Hodgson said. “I am thankful for it. My family is always going to be there, they are always going to support me. …
“But in order to grow,” she said. “I had to go away.”
So, while Hodgson has set out on her own path, determined to go farther and be bolder, she still keeps the lessons she learned under the shadow of Mount Monadnock tucked close to her chest. She’s pulls them out in the tough times, easing her mind on those long bus rides.
“Growing up our parents told us this sport was a privilege,” Hodgson said. “I thank God for the opportunities, even on the hardest days. I have had hard days in the past, but I look back on what basketball has given me. I’m grateful.”