Matt's life lessons in beating sporting adversity
IPSWICH-bred Australian basketballer Matt Hodgson is a positive example of how to deal with sporting adversity and reach new heights.
Fresh from a powerhouse performance in his fourth National Basketball League season, the towering Brisbane Bullets player is enjoying a break before hoping to rejoin the Boomers squad preparing for the next World Cup.
"They'll bring in all the NBA players and whatever and I think a few guys from the NBL will get an invite to that camp (in August),'' he said.
"I'm not sure if I'll be in the invites. We'll wait and see.''
However, spending extra time with his Booval-based parents Kerry and Lorraine and catching up with friends are what the proud Ipswich sportsman enjoys.
"It's important,'' he said of the tremendous support and keeping in touch with the people that matter.
"Once a career is done and no-one cares, you just have the memories and I've got some really good memories growing up in Ipswich.''
Receiving some rare downtime also gives the 211cm basketballer a chance to reflect.
Having graduated with a psychology degree during his 10-year stint in the United States, Hodgson wants to continue learning more about a possible career option post-basketball.
He is particularly interested in the psychological issues that athletes encounter and how they potentially deal with those challenges.
"I'm not an expert, just dealing with my past experiences, what it was like for me,'' he said.
"I'm looking to go back to school, probably this off-season. I'll do some course getting towards a Masters in Psychology.''
He also loves the strength and conditioning side of sport.
"Keeping the body in shape is something that I also have an interest in,'' he said.
That's why the down-to-earth sportsman is such a fascinating person to chat to about his life on and off the basketball court.
He's dealt with massive downs playing with Southern Utah (2009-11) and Saint Marys (2012-14) in the US college system.
Hodgson said injury setbacks - including being out for 12 months after surgery - and self-induced form lapses tested his resolve to keep playing.
"The biggest thing about my career so far is that I've been lucky enough to have some adversity,'' he said.
"There were a lot of moments where it didn't look likely that I would have a professional career, (let alone) do well in it.
"And that's a testament mostly to the people I've had around me and the support system.''
Such honest assessments have helped Hodgson battle through the hurdles, doubts and fears.
"It's satisfying, just learning a lot about yourself,'' he said.
Now 27, Hodgson feels he's reaching his basketball peak, mainly due to his renewed enjoyment in the game he first played at Silkstone State School aged 10.
"I'd say I have more (years to play) just because the years of not playing a lot in college saved me a lot of wear and tear on my body,'' he said.
He said as long as he looked after his body properly, he was confident of an extended career.
Hodgson has just finished his fourth NBL season, helping the Bullets make the finals for the first time in years.
"It is the best year of my career in general actually,'' he said of his latest NBL campaign. "It was a good year for me personally.
"I felt like I was able to step up and develop a lot more confidence and mental strength, a bit more clarity around who I am and how I want to play and how to perform.''
Although Perth won the recent series 2-0, Hodgson savoured the experience. He led the NBL in field goal percentage (63 per cent success rate), averaging 9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, one block and one assist per game in the regular season.
The Ipswich product scored 15 points in the 84-79 second semi-final loss to playoff masters Perth at Boondall before getting into foul trouble.
"You have to take your hat off to Perth,'' Hodgson said.
"We were the best three-point shooting team in the league this year and unfortunately we had two bad games shooting the ball. But they (Perth) didn't let us get ahead the whole series.''
That aside, Hodgson was confident the Bullets made great strides this season.
"We scraped in there (finals) which was good (14 wins, 14 losses),'' Hodgson said.
"I think it's a good step in the right direction but there's a lot more room for improvement as well.''
Hodgson said he "grew to love Adelaide'' during his early NBL career, which included a minor premiership before joining the Bullets in the just completed season.
However, returning to his home state provided a refreshing change.
"That was the best part,'' he said.
"I really enjoyed down there (Adelaide) but at the end of the day until I signed a contract down there, I had never been down there before so everything was new.''
He said coming back to Brisbane in more familiar surroundings to start new traditions was appealing.
"And to do it in a home town in a place where I got to watch the Bullets when I was growing up. So the deal for that was pretty special for me.
"My family were there at all the games and a lot of people I knew and people I hadn't seen since I was at school came out to games. That was really cool.''
When Hodgson started playing basketball at school, he recalled Joey Wright coaching the Bullets side. Wright would later become his coach at Adelaide.
Other stars in those earlier Bullets sides included CJ Bruton and Sam Mackinnon, players he's also had links with.
That's why Hodgson was keen to secure a two-year extension on his Bullets contract post 2018/19 season.
Hodgson missed the pre-season and first NBL game recovering from a torn calf received playing for the Boomers last year.
However, he celebrated his 100th NBL game with a Bullets victory over Melbourne at the Brisbane Convention Centre this year. He's now up to 119 games.
Hodgson said working with national coach Andrej Lemanis at the Bullets was especially beneficial.
"That was a lot of the reason why I wanted to come to Brisbane in the first place,'' he said.
"I had good experience with Andrej with the Boomers and I felt like he's always been able to get the best out of me.
"I felt really calm and confident being coached by him. I sort of replicated that throughout the whole season.
"As much as I enjoyed playing for the Boomers, I enjoyed it even that much more now with the Bullets as well.''
As for what he enjoys most about basketball, Hodgson said it's "just competing for the sake of competing''.
"Learning good lessons about yourself while you're playing,'' he said.
Hodgson said the toughest part in sport and life in general was getting yourself out it when things weren't going your way.
That's where "perspective'' becomes so important.
"It's easy to just get caught up in all your problems that come in basketball when things are going really bad,'' he said.
He prefers to deal on the positives like sharing in Australia's gold medal-winning performance at the 2017 Asia Cup.
And one of his pre-game rituals is looking after his appearance on game day, especially being on TV.