Ipswich family's sacrifice so valuable
INSIDE Matt Hodgson's towering seven foot frame is a sportsman who thinks a lot about his game, always looking to improve.
The former West Moreton Anglican College and Ipswich Grammar School student gives a wonderful insight into that thinking when he shares a piece of advice he treasures.
"There's one that sort of helped me out towards the back end of this (NBL) season,'' he said, relaxing at his parents' family home at Booval.
"And that's 'confidence is a choice'. It sounds really corny but it's so true.
"So much in basketball, you see some guys and they are just unbelievable talent. These amazing bodies with great athleticism and they have all the skills. But they get out on the court and they can't click together.
"Those guys who are the complete package a lot of the time aren't the best players.
"There's nothing wrong with wanting to become a complete package and I think that's what you should be doing. But the guys who do really well are the guys that just choose to believe in themself and there's no arrogance behind it. There's not having to broadcast your belief in yourself to other people but you can see the guys that put basketball in the right place and they realise it's not the end of their world if you have a bad game or you miss the big shot or whatever.''
It's that sort of common sense motivation that has served Hodgson well.
"It's just having that confidence to be able to go out and perform at your best,'' he said.
"It's taken me years and years to actually get to that point where I believe in myself.''
Hodgson said much of that self-belief came from his parents Lorraine and Kerry, who were wonderful sources of support in Ipswich and when he ventured overseas.
Lorraine played basketball and Kerry was a former rugby representative in New Zealand.
"Mum and dad have definitely sacrificed a whole lot for me,'' he said. "A lot of their time and effort and energy . . . and financially paying for me.
"It's not like we grew up with a whole lot so for them to do that and sacrifice is always really special.''
Matt had one season of school basketball aged 10 at Silkstone State School before trying Aussie rules until he was 14.
After returning to basketball for a year and a half at West Moreton Anglican College, he was offered an Ipswich Grammar School scholarship.
He made his first state team in year 11 and was invited to the Australian Institute of Sport the following season.
US stints with Southern Utah and Saint Mary's followed before his return to Australia where he has established a powerful reputation in the NBL. He has since represented the Australian Boomers more than a dozen times, including in the 2017 Asia Cup.
While with Saint Mary's, Hodgson recalls returning home for an exhibition match against the Cairns Taipans at Ipswich stadium.
It was there he played against Cam Gliddon, a current teammate at the Bullets.
"That was a lot of fun (playing in Ipswich). We enjoyed it,'' Hodgson said.
Hodgson said an early influence in Ipswich was Danny Breen, who was instrumental in luring the promising basketballer to IGS.
He also appreciates those who encouraged him early in his career.
"The guys that I used to play with when I was 14 and they took me under their wing and taught me how to play properly and everything like that,'' he said.
"That's why I enjoyed my time at IGS. Get into that brotherhood there and experience a school that had its traditions and to go to a school that my uncles graduated from was pretty cool.''
Being tall an advantage
Hodgson enjoys returning to Ipswich at every opportunity, keeping in touch with former coaches like Breen and Michael Wellings and friends through Ipswich basketball.
He jokes he was okay at Aussie rules but never in shape. Thankfully for basketball, he took that option.
"I don't think I was a very good athlete. It was just that I was lucky enough to be tall and that's what helped me in basketball,'' he said.
"I was always tall but I really shot and really started to get that extra separation when I was in grade nine (at WestMAC).''
His favourite player was Australian professional basketballer Chris Anstey, the head coach who gave Hodgson a massive break at Melbourne United, leading to an NBL opportunity.
"He was a lot better than I was. He was one of the first Aussies to get drafted in the NBA,'' Hodgson said.
During his off-season break, Hodgson plans to catch up with his friends in between regular gym sessions to maintain his fitness.
"Having this time is great to be able to look after your body and work on some things,'' he said.
As for how he wants to improve his game, Hodgson said he had to maximise what he's doing.
"Adding a couple of things,'' he said, keen to bolster his shooting accuracy and jump shot.
"A lot of things that will benefit my game are working defensively, being able to slide a bit better and stay in front of some bigger guys,'' he said.
"And just physically, just getting stronger. Not having to put on a whole bunch of bulk or whatever but just being strong enough and be able to take hits and not let that trouble me while I'm in the air so I will be able to finish a lot more.''