The Paladin interviewed Tierra Hodges on April 25th.
Q: You have had a glamorous season. The SoCon Player of the Year election was the cherry on top. Taking the good with the bad, what made this past season remarkable for you?
A: The highlight of the season was beating Mercer at home. That was the first time we have done that since 2013, and I have never beaten them there before. They have always been the dominant team in our conference since I arrived here, so the feeling of beating them on their home court was amazing. The lowlight of the season was losing to them in the championship. Winning that game would have meant a lot more, obviously. It also was not my best game, so I will say both games against Mercer were remarkable in their own ways.
Q: What do you think played into your brilliant performance at Mercer in the regular season, and what could you have done better in the championship game as a team?
A: The first time we played Mercer, we beat them. Second time, it was a very close game until the very end. One thing we were able to do (in the first game) was to sustain their runs. They are a great team, and they are good at going on runs. They were always able to bounce back, too. They went on a run in the third quarter of the championship game, and we were not able to respond, so that is what killed us.
Q: Perhaps due to the unfair stereotypes on women's sports, unfortunately, there were many empty seats at home games despite your exceptional season. What message would you deliver to the fans through The Paladin?
A: The stereotypes on men’s and women’s sports are totally different. Men are known to get a lot of fans in comparison to us. Women’s sports have been actively trying to close the gap between fan bases.
We feed off what we have. It is not about the quantity of our fans; it is about the quality. We know our fans; our fans are literally our fans. They are people we see, we talk to in every game. We became close to them. We try not to worry too much about the people at the game. We just try to feel the support of those who come. I feel like what we have right now is a great family fan base. We are growing as a program, and that would bring in a lot of fans. We practice hard, we work hard to produce and perform in front of our fans, so we would love to perform in front of larger audiences, but it is not a big concern for us.
Q: What do you foresee about the future of this program? Do you have particular expectations for a young player to help the further growth of the program?
A: As a starter, only I and our starting post player are gone for the next season. This past season, we had two freshmen and sophomore Tate Walters starting for the majority of the season, and they all have done great. I foresee them winning the championship within the next two to three years.
Last year, we had four seniors, no junior class. The rest were sophomores and freshmen. We made it to the championship game like that. My teammates have more than enough to continue building a championship program. Everyone is capable of stepping up and bringing something different to the table.
Q: You are now looking to set your foot in the world of professional basketball. Can you reckon where you will end up in the future yet or are you still looking for the best option?
A: Having found an agent, I am still in the very beginning parts of it, so there is nowhere particular that I would want to land. It is wherever gives me the best opportunity to start my career off; it is where I will have the best shot at success... But most likely somewhere in Europe will be where I end up.
Tierra ended up signing her first professional contract with Kouvottaret in Finland. Hats off and good luck!
Q: Growing up, did you look up to any players in particular?
A: The more I started watching basketball, the more I watched players closer to my age. High school was when I started watching college basketball and the WNBA.
A’ja Wilson, Nneka Ogwumike: those are younger players. I love Candice Parker’s game too, but I would say the top one is Nneka Ogwumike. We play completely differently; however, our grit and our work ethic are alike- just how hard she plays and how she goes at full speed 100% of the time. That is what I base my game off of: always working as hard as possible on the floor and standing out in that way, letting all the other stuff come from that.
Q: Most WNBA stars play wing, some other play guard. Angel McCoughtry, Kelsey Plum, Candice Parker and Elena Delle Donne are some examples I can recall. Given your presence on the floor as a C/PF, did you ever struggle finding a star to model your game after?
A: I play 4 in high school and college, but playing professionally overseas, I will be a 3. Therefore, it actually might be important for me to watch that position. I’m 5’10, I am not tall. I just play big. The 4 in pro basketball is over 6’0, so I will not be guarding 4 in the pros. That is why it is important for me to watch guards. That’s why I watch a lot of Ogwumike and players like her.
Q: Especially since you’ve mentioned switching to 3, is there any aspect of your game that you would like to improve?
A: The two biggest aspects in this regard are my three-point shot and my ball handle. Here, I have been set up a lot. At the professional level, I have to learn how to create that space for myself and get more consistent with my three-point shot. Those are the two biggest things I am working on.
Responses have been edited for clarity.