116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Tatiana Hodges-Johnson has known two things since the first time she stepped onto the Kirkwood campus.
She wanted to be an Eagle; “I came here first and just fell in love,” Hodges-Johnson said. “Honestly, I don’t know why I went to look at other campuses because I always knew Kirkwood was my school.”
The Des Moines East alum also believed the Eagles could win big.
“The day I committed I told coach that I was coming here because I feel that we can win the national championship,” Hodges-Johnson said. “I want to say I did this for Kirkwood because I just love the school and their spirit.”
Having accumulated more than 2,000 points and 500 rebounds in her prep career at Des Moines East, Hodges-Johnson tries to keep things in perspective.
“I’ve never really been one of those small-town heroes where people talk about needing to see me play,” Hodges-Johnson said. “I wasn’t even aware of my totals until I was 200 points shy with maybe half the season remaining.”
However, once she knew that, “I knew I had to accomplish those things and I had a different mentality.”
That mentality followed Hodges-Johnson to Kirkwood where she has earned every minute of playing time, playing multiple positions before settling in at point guard this year.
“I’ve always been told to stay humble and one day you’ll be recognized,” Hodges-Johnson said. “I just continue to do what I do and if someone wants me, my time will come.”
Not only is Kirkwood perfect for the sophomore — who will return for a third season this fall — Hodges-Johnson seemed to always be destined for the game of basketball.
“My mom got the hint when I was 2 because I would go in the bathroom and ball up tissue paper and shoot them in the trash can,” Hodges-Johnson said. “Once I turned 7 she put me in a YMCA league.”
Unfortunately, as a first-grader she was too shy and didn’t take to the game once others were around. However, multiple mentors came into her life when she made a second attempt as a third-grader including Andrea Jones, who was just getting into coaching and still comes to Kirkwood games to watch her former protégé.
With four tickets per player, Hodges-Johnson also leans on support from her mother Francine Hodges, her younger brother Ta’Cory Wise and her longtime girlfriend Jayanna Henderson.
“Those are who get my four tickets,” Hodges-Johnson said. “They come to support me and then we go get something to eat.”
Surrounded by love and encouragement, Hodges-Johnson is also decorated with tattoos that remind her of who she is and where she came from.
“I have a tiger because it’s powerful and roses for loyalty and strength,” Hodges-Johnson said. “The lion is for determination and then of course I was born in 2001.”
She also has a sleeve of doves with names on her left arm.
“I’ve lost a lot of people and I’ve recently lost four more I need to add,” Hodges-Johnson said. “Once I put these on my arm I felt some relief because they are my guardian angels. I love having them represent me while I represent them. Sometimes I look down and remember that I am doing this for them. That keeps me going.”
With plenty of inspiration and belief in themselves, Hodges-Johnson and the Eagles (21-1) begin their quest for another national championship Tuesday as the No. 1 seed when they face No. 16 North Platte (10-11), the Northwest Plains champion at 6 p.m. in Hickory, N.C.
“I’ve always been used to having a target on my back,” Hodges-Johnson said. “Having that here as well gives me some type of fire. I like that. Being a disliked team is an advantage, I’ve always felt that way because it makes me not want to lose.”