Even growing up with six siblings, Eva Hodgson has always made her voice known.
“My older brothers will tell you I’ve always tried to boss other people around,” she said. “I think it’s something that has been ingrained in me from the get-go. I also just have one of the bigger personalities in my family, and I’m naturally just always comfortable with voicing things.”
Now in her final year as a member of the North Carolina women’s basketball program, Hodgson’s voice has helped guide her to a key role for a team aspiring to keep dancing late into March this year.
“She’s a great cheerleader for her teammates,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “She champions their success, she builds individual connections with them, she’s incredibly vocal so she can say things to people directly, she can say things in mass and she’s our most vocal in practice on a daily basis.”
Finding a home
Hodgson always dreamed of playing at the highest level of women’s college basketball.
After two years at William & Mary — where she set the single-season scoring record in her sophomore season — COVID-19 hit, and Hodgson decided to sit out in 2020, leaving her with two years of eligibility and the opportunity to move to a nationally competitive program.
As soon as Banghart reached out, Hodgson had people in her ear telling her she had to go play for the fellow New Hampshire native.
Aside from the hometown connection, Hodgson said UNC had everything she wanted, including a strong MBA program, a team filled with potential and, perhaps most importantly, community.
“I was searching for any wrong thing with Carolina," Hodgson said. "I was like ‘Please, just tell me something that is terrible,’ like there has to be something that’s wrong with this place because no one had anything bad to say," she said.
‘Definitely an adjustment’
Hodgson has spent much of her basketball career in transition — transferring to the New Hampton School during her high school career and then to UNC in college — but the driving traits that make her special have remained constant.
She always finds a way to lead and succeed in her on-court role — no matter how different it may be from her previous experiences. At William & Mary, Hodgson started in all 60 games she appeared in. Last year, she had to learn how to come off of the bench for the first time.
“It was definitely an adjustment,” Hodgson said. “But as the year went on, I saw how important it was for my energy to come off the bench. Because your team can start in any way, but then to have somebody who can come in and provide stability, energy and a voice for everyone who’s still in is really important."
Despite the initial shift, Hodgson adjusted quickly. Filling a variety of roles when needed — from lead guard to distributor to shooter — she finished the season averaging 9.1 points and shooting over 35 percent from beyond the arc.
Banghart said that rather than a sixth player, the Tar Heels considered Hodgson — a captain last season — as the team's sixth starter.
“Just speaking about Eva in general, she’s done a lot of the things that we’ve asked her to do and she’s done it her way,” Banghart said. “She’s got an enormous amount of respect from her teammates in the way that she does it.”
‘See each other as family’
With Carlie Littlefield — a captain and a starter from last year — leaving North Carolina’s ranks, Hodgson’s voice and versatile skillset are only likely to become more important.
“She’s made a huge impact ever since she got here, just being that voice of encouragement,” junior guard Deja Kelly said. “She’s made a huge impact on us in that way and a bunch of other ways as well.”
As Hodgson’s playing career winds to an end, Banghart noted the redshirt senior is facing “athletic mortality” — a phrase she uses to describe a sense of urgency for players nearing the end of their time on the court.
In her final year, Hodgson intends to leave a legacy in Chapel Hill, one defined by a simple principle: passion.
“That’s the kind of culture that I would like to leave," Hodgson said. "Getting to a place where you see each other as family, where you know that you would do anything for them and they would do anything for you.”
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