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For Lakenheath's Hodge, basketball is emotional outlet

Lakenheath junior Jourdan Hodge, center, pursues a rebound in a game against Ramstein on Jan. 25.

For now, Jourdan Hodge owns an advantage in size and skill over nearly every opponent she encounters on a basketball court. That won’t always be the case, and the Lakenheath standout knows it.

“I want to work on my dribbling. If I end up playing college, which I hope to, I need to be able to dribble,” said the 5-foot-11 junior, an All-Europe performer in basketball and volleyball. “At my height, maybe here I can play in the middle, but in college I’ll be playing point guard, or [on the perimeter].”

That’s a sophisticated approach to the game for a 17-year-old, particularly one capable of dominating any given DODDS-Europe event on raw talent alone. Hodge has developed that wisdom over a lifetime spent on the basketball court, channeling her own swirling emotions and the advice of others into an unceasing effort to master the game she loves.

“I had a lot of aggression when I was little,” Hodge said. ““Basketball was kind of my outlet. When I got angry, I would go play basketball, and the anger drove me to get better.”

Born and raised in Lakenheath, Hodge took to the court at the age of 4 and resembled anything but a budding phenom. Her hand-eye coordination took years to develop, she said, finally cooperating around the age of 10. She began to contribute more to her youth teams. But her standards were set higher.

Hodge’s parents were basketball standouts in Pennsylvania, and she’s grown up as the only girl a family with four basketball-playing brothers. One, Josh Hodge, is currently a senior for NCAA Division II Livingstone College. Whatever competition Hodge found at the local gym was nothing compared to the talent in the next bedroom over.

Predictably, the boys didn’t take it easy on their sister.

“I had to get tough real quick,” Hodge said.

The insurmountable challenges posed by her brothers fueled Hodge’s burning drive to improve. By high school, she was ready to take her place among DODDS-Europe’s best players. As a sophomore, Hodge was selected to the All-Europe second team.

At this point, another player of similar talent might have expected free rein on the court. Another coach might have allowed it. And another point guard might have stepped aside.

But not Hodge. Not Lancers head coach Anna Archer. And certainly not Lakenheath point guard Kristen Reed.

“She’s pretty good,” said Reed, Hodge’s best friend. “I feel like I can trust her with the ball. I feel comfortable giving her the ball, and she will not turn it over.”

That’s the system Archer has installed with Lakenheath, 7-2 entering the weekend and a contender to win the Division I European championship later this month. There are no isolations for Hodge, no getting out of the way, no players asked simply to pass the ball to the star player and chase down her occasional rebounds. There is a nuanced offense designed to maximize Hodge’s strengths along with those of her teammates and produce the best possible shot from the most available hand.

The system would be unworkable without Hodge’s full participation. Lesser players have been benched for subverting the game plan for their own self-interest. That has not been a problem for Archer.

“She’s very coachable,” Archer said. “She’s someone that if I need the girls to calm down, she’ll calm them down.”

Hodge’s presence on the court is one of unflappable cool, mature and controlled and worthy of a leadership role. But her fury is still evident in her will and effort, her pursuit of every rebound, block and loose ball in her reach. The combination is at once reassuring for her teammates and terrifying to opponents.

Above all, it suggests much better things to follow.

“My love for the game kind of grew as I grew up,” Hodge said.

And she’s not done growing yet.

broomeg@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @broomestripes

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