tampabay.com

'Noles thrive with 'Queen' leading charge

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published March 20, 2005


At first, Florida State guard Roneeka Hodges cringed at the nickname.

"I didn't like it," she said. "You hear "Queen' and you think of someone selfish or of some royalty."

She wasn't that person, but Hodges was never fearful of speaking her mind and, while she never considered herself haughty, had a penchant for doing things her way.

So, LSU coach Pokey Chatman, who as an assistant when Hodges arrived at that school in 2000, playfully tagged her with that nom de plume that would stick.

"It's definitely fitting," twin sister Doneeka said.

"She is the Queen," added Chatman with a gentle laugh. "She's very confident in what she says and does, but it comes from a good place."

That being Hodges' passion to win and her willingness to do whatever she thought it took.

They are traits that have served her and FSU well. After sitting out a year in accordance with transfer rules, Hodges quickly emerged as the star and leader for the surprising Seminoles.

Despite the death of one player (forward Ronalda Pierce in June) and the loss of their top returner (guard Shante Williams) for personal reasons, the Seminoles have reached the NCAA Tournament for just the fifth time in program history. Seeded sixth, they open play against No. 11 seeded Richmond tonight in Storrs, Conn. Both teams are 23-7.

Hodges averages a team-high 19 points, as well as 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists. The 5-foot-11 senior was named to the first-team All-ACC and Women's Basketball Coaches Association Region II All-America teams, the first Seminole so honored since 1982.

"I don't think she's exceeded my expectations with her performance, but I think she has with her leadership," FSU coach Sue Semrau said. "People follow her."

Chatman gushes about Hodges, adding that she keeps up with how she's doing and is constantly asked about her by fans.

"Queen still has a strong following here," she said. "She's just a great kid. It's no surprise to me what she's been able to bring to the table there."

There have been many regal moments for Hodges this season. She set an FSU single-game record with 39 points in a win against Maryland. She's had 12 games of 20 or more points, including seven in ACC play and one in the ACC tournament.

"Oh, man, she's a tremendous talent," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.

That might never have been more evident than at Wake Forest in mid February. The Seminoles were down 10 with 3:43 left, but during a timeout Hodges made it clear who was in charge - of the moment and the game.

"I finished talking to them and Queen grabbed (senior) Linnea (Liljestrand) by both shoulders and said, "This is what we're going to do,' " Semrau said.

"She is vocal and she's very blunt," junior guard Ganiyat Adeduntan said. "She doesn't hold back at all, but it's taken the right way."

Hodges didn't score down the stretch in that game, but did all the little things (rebound, defend, set screens, draw defenders) as the Seminoles rallied for a 71-69 win.

"That's my role, being a leader by example and any way I can," she said. "If that means I have to get in somebody's face and say, "Look (whatever),' that's my role."

She is, after all, the Queen.