Growing up in Ipswich, Queensland, Matt Hodgson never dreamed of a career in basketball, instead focusing on playing Australian Rules football as a youngster.

It took a Christmas visit from a family friend when he was 14 years old, who mentioned the advantages of playing basketball in college in the USA, to trigger his interest.

“I never really thought about playing pro sport, all I wanted to do was graduate university and get a real job,” said Hodgson.

“The family friend asked me about playing and I just laughed it off but about a week later Mum convinced me to sign up at Ipswich basketball.”

Despite starting the sport at a relatively old age, the centre found immediate success at local level, winning two Grand Finals in two consecutive seasons while playing for East’s.

“Danny Breen [ex-Queensland Academy of Sport head coach] then convinced me to transfer from West Moreton Anglican College to Ipswich Grammar (IGS). I absolutely loved IGS from my first day of attendance.

“They had such great transitions, the classwork was challenging and there was a real sense of brotherhood. I loved representing IGS during the basketball season too and playing with a bunch of blokes that I still talk to this day. It was a brilliant way to finish my last two years of schooling and I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for IGS.”

Graduating in 2008, Hodgson earned a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport but in 2009, headed to the USA to fulfil his dream of playing college basketball.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision to leave my family behind since I had been preparing for that moment for four years. It was extremely thrilling and I was grateful to have the opportunity to do so.”

Playing for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds from 2009-2011, Hodgson set a record for blocks in a season in 2009-10 with 64 in 29 games while starting every contest. At the other end of the floor, he scored 6.4 points a game while shooting a team-high 58% which he maintained the following season.

In 2011, the centre transferred to the St. Mary’s Gaels which has a long history of Australian representatives including Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, Adam Caporn, Daniel Kickert and Lucas Walker.

There, his point production remained constant while he anchored the side with his defensive exploits, finishing second for blocks in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

“College basketball is extremely athletic, intense and regimented. The systems that colleges employ are very structured, they don’t allow for much deviation. The atmosphere is always intense, practices are long and everything is really competitive.”

Although he attended college for four years, Hodgson returned to his home country as he represented Australia at the 2011 Summer University Games and Under-19 World Championships in 2009.

Averaging four points and four rebounds in that tournament, he played alongside Dellavedova, Brock Motum, Ryan Broekhoff and Jason Cadee as Australia finished fourth.

“I was really proud to represent Australia and tried to do everything that I could to represent with honour. I remember going against some really talented players, a fair few of them being in the NBA now [including Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk].”

Hodgson is now forging a career in the NBL as a member of the Adelaide 36ers, following a short stint with Frankston in the South East Australian Basketball League and a contract with Melbourne United which was cut short due to injury.

“It’s been a learning curve. I had had some really good games and some really average games. It’s been a challenge to find consistency but one that I am enjoying learning about- it’s the most fun I have had playing basketball since I was at IGS.”

Following this year in the NBL, Hodgson hopes to return to Adelaide and use the off-season to improve his game. Being able to represent Ipswich, whether he is playing at a national or international level, is never far from his mind though.

“I love Ipswich, I’ve lived there basically my whole life. The city and the people have given me so much so by being able to represent Ipswich, it is a way to give a little back.”