When Braydey Hodgins talks about her first NCAA Tournament appearance with the Boise State women’s basketball team, all she can do is laugh.
“I just remember going in for like 5 minutes and having five turnovers,” Hodgins said. “It was the worst game ever.”
While Hodgins did indeed commit five turnovers in an 83-56 loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in 2017, it actually took her 13 minutes to do so, and she returned to the bench having gone 0-for-5 from the floor with zero points, three rebounds and three assists.
The stats are irrelevant now, but the experience remains priceless as Hodgins and the 13th-seeded Broncos (28-4) prepare for their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance on Saturday against host and No. 4 seed Oregon State (24-7). Tipoff will be on ESPN2 30 minutes following the 1:30 p.m. MT opening game between No. 5 Gonzaga and No. 12 Little Rock at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Oregon.
“I think my freshman year was great in a sense to learn, because I learned from some great players,” Hodgins said. “Especially having (then seniors) Yaiza Rodriguez and Brooke Pahukoa and all those people who have been here before. And sitting in this seat now, maybe I can be that for someone else on our team. There’s some freshmen on our team who are in the same role that I was in. It’s just interesting to kind of see that and look back on it.”
Hodgins, a junior guard from Pasco, Washington, is the Broncos’ top scorer this season at 13.4 points per game. She averaged 23.3 points per game in three Mountain West Tournament contests, including a tournament-record 37 points in a 72-67 quarterfinal win over Nevada to take home tournament MVP honors. Hodgins also matched a program record with six straight games of 20 points or more from Feb. 6-27.
“I think she is much more confident now. We call it the freshman hole. You come in and you have all these high school stats and you immediately lose confidence and you fall into a hole,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “How you pull yourself out of that is how well you do, and she was willing to work to makes changes. Then her sophomore year she just took off the second half of the season.
“I’ve said this over and over, but she has competitive greatness. She has the ability to be good when you have to be good, and she is a blessing to our program, that’s for sure.”
At 5-foot-8, Hodgins is often the shortest player on the court. It wasn’t a problem in high school, but Hodgins found she needed to adjust her game once she reached the college level.
“As a freshman you don’t have a long leash. You can’t turn it over five times and be able to stay in the game, because possessions mean more and you’re playing against better people who are going to capitalize on your turnover,” Hodgins said. “… (As a freshman) I would always get to the basket and I couldn’t pass out. I didn’t really look out or look for skips or anything. If I got in the key, I was going to the basket, and most of the time I would get blocked. So not only was it a missed shot, it’s a missed shot and a turnover.
“That kept piling on itself and got to the point where coach was like, ‘You can’t be doing that, you have to find other people.’ I’ve always been able to shoot, but in high school I never had to, because I would get to the basket at will pretty much or get there and get fouled. So when I got here, it was definitely an adjustment.”
Hodgins leads the Broncos with 70 made 3-pointers this season at a clip of 41.9 percent. Her ability to drive to the hoop, drive and dish or connect from beyond the arc has made her an increasingly difficult player to guard. And that’s compounded further by the fact that the Broncos’ bench is among the deepest in the country with 10 different players on the team who have led or shared the lead in scoring in a game this season.
Fellow junior guard and Washington native Riley Lupfer paced the Broncos last season at 16.2 ppg and set the program’s single-season record for made 3-pointers with 122. Lupfer has seen increased defensive attention this season — and missed four games with an injury — providing room for other Broncos, particularly Hodgins, to step into the spotlight.
On other teams, that might have been a problem, but not with the Broncos.
“We have five championships in three years, so I feel like with that much talent on the team, there’s going to be nothing but smiles,” said Lupfer, referring to the Broncos’ back-to-back Mountain West regular-season titles and three straight conference tournament championships.
“Any given night Marta (Hermida) drops 30 points, or A’Shanti (Coleman) has 20, or Jayde (Christopher) hits friggin’ half-court 3s. There’s so much talent. There’s just so much to appreciate.”
Coming from a basketball family, Hodgins is comfortable sharing the limelight. Her mom, then Karen Murray, was at one time the University of Washington’s career scoring leader in women’s basketball and was the first women’s hoops player inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame. Hodgins’ two older sisters, Hayley and Delaney, both enjoyed storied careers at Eastern Washington. Hayley set the program’s career scoring record with 1,865 points and Delaney broke it with 2,120 points.
But even the most mentally tough athletes experience moments of doubt, and Hodgins’ moment came when Christopher joined the team last season as a transfer from Kansas.
“I was kind of nervous the whole time thinking, ‘Am I really going to play that much?’” Hodgins said. “They’re talking about how amazing she is, and I’m kind of doubting myself at some points. Then she got here in the summer and we started working out together. She’s just a light, a light in the room. She makes everyone happy.
“… She allows us to do so much more as a team, and she’s opened up a lot for me, because I haven’t had to handle the ball a ton, or handle it in pressure situations as much.”
Christopher’s 176 assists this season are the second-most in program history, and a fair share of them have gone Hodgins’ way.
But if Hodgins hadn’t pushed her way past the self-doubt, the Broncos might not be in the position they are now — one 40-minute game away from the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.
“I think she knew she had it, and her parents knew she had it, and we knew she had it,” Presnell said. “... And she did it the right way. She sat her freshman year behind a great point guard and learned everything, played about 12 minutes, and then got better her sophomore year. Then she’s just blossomed into the player that she is right now.”