Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hodgson to Blaze Own Trail to Salve Regina

Conant High is synonymous with NH basketball, and the Hodgson family is synonymous with Conant basketball. Eli Hodgson has kept both of those traditions alive. He led the Orioles to back-to-back Division III state titles during his junior and senior seasons. He was named first team all-state as a senior, and will also represent NH when they take on Vermont in the Twin State All-Star game this summer.

Hodgson will now carry on the tradition of Conant athletes who go on to play college ball, as he has recently given a verbal commitment to head coach Sean Foster at Salve Regina University. Salve is a D-III program that competes in the Commonwealth Coast Conference and is located in Newport, RI.

"In my recruitment there were a number of schools that showed interest but a select few that pursued me hard" Hodgson told the NH Notebook. "Among those who pursued me strongly were Plattsburgh State, Keene State, Springfield, and Salve Regina. All of these schools had coaches that talked with me and made it clear I’d help their squad. I ended up choosing Salve over the others for a number of reasons completely unrelated to basketball. Each and every school had a program and facilities that were exceptional and met my expectations, but I wanted more than just basketball from school. I wanted to challenge myself academically, pursue theater in college, have a large number of options for majors, not be financially strained, and honestly love the campus. I knew going into the process that I wouldn’t want to come out of school with debt so I weighed that heavily. Salve Regina met all of these requirements and when I visited the school with my mother the coach toured us and the campus blew us away. I knew after that visit that’s where I wanted to be, and it was a huge burden lifted off my shoulders."

Eli's older brother Ezra Hodgson is currently a junior at Plattsburgh State, and has started on the basketball team there for the past couple years. Ezra helped Conant win a state title in basketball as a sophomore, and Eli followed in his steps a few years later. They weren't able to play together in high school but if Eli went to Plattsburgh they would have been able to play together next season.

"Did Ezra play a factor in my decision? Probably more than anyone could know" explained Eli Hodgson. "He vied for me and wanted me at Plattsburgh more than anyone. He had me visit and stay with him, talked to the track and field coach about me throwing javelin for them, even got the schools film-making department to send me a letter of acceptance to their program, a program I was highly interested in. The thought of playing with him for his senior year is exactly what I wished I could’ve done in high school, but the fit just wasn’t the same. This also played as a factor in Springfield College as well with Sean Martin (former Conant star) being on their team, but I truly needed to find my fit, and Salve Regina was that. I wanted to blaze my own path, and I think I’m off to a good start. Playing against Ezra and Steven specifically has helped my game a lot. Ezra is bigger than me; Steven is faster than me, when I play against them I’m getting better one way or another. Steven also could have played college ball at the DIII level but was called down a different path which was UNH. This summer I’ll be playing with Ezra and Steven on my team in the BST college league so it will be a good way to start my freshmen year."

Ezra might be taller and Steven might be faster, but Eli has a very well-rounded game. At 6-foot-4, he has the ability to play inside or outside. He can rebound, pass, defend, he can score in the low post or by facing up and shooting or taking his man off the dribble. He has a good basketball I.Q., sets good screens, is fundamentally sound and doesn't get fazed when the pressure is on the most. He plays hard and he's a winner.

"Playing at Conant will always epitomize everything that I love about basketball. The system in which players are expected to play on JV to develop seems laborious, but in the end it has given us results. To be a part of two state titles is truly a blessing. Not a day goes by where I don’t consider myself lucky to be in the program I am, with a coach so dedicated, and players with a common goal. Winning that second state title solidified my opinion of myself as a basketball player, and encouraged me to take my game to the next level. Evidently there were high expectations going into this season, expectations that we would win. To carry out the tradition of winning a championship and seeing the pride on our long-standing fans’ faces is what gives me the greatest satisfaction. I feel honored to carry on the tradition, and hope those after me do the same."

Hodgson's versatility will serve him well at Salve. The Seahawks graduate 6 seniors off last year's squad, including former Bishop Guertin standout Scott St. Lawrence who is also an effective inside / outside player they'll have to replace as well as Alex Pratt who played at Nashua North.

"On Salve Regina’s basketball team I see my role starting off as being a role player" said Hodgson. "Certainly capable of playing but learning from the older guys and developing my game so I can take their place when they leave. I think it will be similar to my high school game with my rebounding and defense getting me the most minutes, but my scoring coming in as a bonus. What I look to bring is intangibles like talk in and out of the game, and leadership from the get go."

It is clear that while Hodgson plans to be a contributing member of the basketball team at Salve, he is going there for more than just athletics.

"Like I mentioned previously I plan on studying theater at least as a minor" Hodgson concluded. "I’m going in undeclared for a major but would like to try global studies. I chose theater because acting has been my niche in high school. Just a week ago I finished my 'Fiddler on the Roof' spring musical in which a starred as the lead, Tevye. I want to do global studies as a major because I’m motivated to help other countries that are impoverished, and to study and learn about these countries would give me some insight for a possible future career. Lastly I do plan to play in the Vermont/New Hampshire rotary game, can’t wait for it and I hope to represent the state well!"

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