Standing tallThursday, July 12, 2012
Jay Buchan | 12th July 2012 7:44 AM Queensland Times
MATT Hodgson knows all about sacrifice.
He doesn't like it but is able to put it into context.
That's because at the end of it is a well paying job (potentially offering phenomenal pay) doing something he loves - playing basketball.
Hodgson, standing 211cm, is back at the family home in Booval for a six-week break before returning to the US, where he will resume his college basketball career with St Mary's in California.
It makes a pleasant change from the two years he spent at Southern Utah University.
"I'm loving it," the towering centre said of life at St Mary's, north of San Francisco.
"I've got a lot more freedom to play. It's a better competition and better teammates."
Helping is the fact St Mary's have four Aussies on their books.
All he needs now is some court time to show what he's learned in the past year.
"For the next 12 months I just want to get back to enjoy playing," the 20-year-old said.
"I lost a bit of passion and love for the game (at Southern Utah)."
Hodgson struggled with the isolation and culture shock of living, studying and playing in a predominantly Mormon state.
But his time at St Mary's hasn't gone according to plan either.
Hodgson was forced to sit out last season because of injury.
It meant more sacrifices, with a year of hard work and no game time, just to ensure he is ready to play this coming season.
"I've spent the year trying to get a lot stronger," Hodgson said.
"At one stage I was lifting weights eight times a week.
"It's tough but it's all for the good.
"A year out - nobody wants to do it. But I've been able to build up my body."
It has seen him put on 10-15kg but more importantly, Hodgson thinks he's improved mentally.
"Overall I'm a better player - a smarter player," he said.
Another sacrifice a college player has to make is life without money, particularly for a boy from Booval.
As part of the college system he is unable to earn an income.
It cost him a spot in the Emerging Australian team, which has been playing a series against Russia and Tunisia being televised on Fox Sports.
Hodgson was unable to afford to change his flight back from the US to get to Australia to join the team in time. "I made that decision," he said. "I wasn't able to meet the expense due to the charges on international flights.
"It's a little bit disappointing when you watch them on TV."
Instead, he planned to watch the Boomers Olympic squad, which includes St Mary's teammate Matthew Dellavedova, train this week in Brisbane.
Hodgson has his sights set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, though he is not the sort to get caught dreaming of what might be.
His personal motto ensures he remains in the present.
"The best things in life are stopping and having a look," he said.
Hopefully by then the former Australian under-19 representative will be playing in the US National Basketball Association (NBA).
If the NBA dream doesn't come to fruition Hodgson knows there are leagues all over the world he can earn a healthy pay packet, even if it means returning to Australia.
"I wouldn't turn my nose up at it," he said.
"There's a lot of good level basketballers."
• Ipswich basketballer Matt Hodgson
• Favourite music: I listen to a lot of hip-hop.
• Favourite TV Show: Entourage.
• Favourite book: The Harry Potter series.
• Pre-game ritual: I used to be really superstitious. I wouldn't touch my facial hair. Now I like to be really clean. I'll brush my teeth and shower really intensely before a game.
• Best advice: Enjoy the journey because there's no real destination.