EVA HODGSON has been in North Carolina for only a few months, but the Rindge native already has a fan club among the Tar Heel basketball faithful.

“If you ever saw one of our home games, you’d see she’s got, like, this following of people that just love Eva Hodgson because of how hard she plays and how vocal and how alive she is,” University of North Carolina women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart said. “People love Eva, and I mean love. That kid is adored around here, and she stays after the game and always has people to talk to and they’re sticking around to watch her, so she is living her very best life.”

Hodgson’s fans are drawn to the intangibles like her energy, toughness and communication, but the tangibles are pretty good, too. The 5-foot-9 guard ranks third on the team in scoring (11.2 points per game), second in 3-pointers made (27) and fifth in assists (32), steals (20) and minutes (24.9 per game). And she’s doing all that for a 14-1 UNC team that was ranked No. 21 in the latest AP poll released Monday.

“The kid is relentless, she’s tough, she’s competitive, she’s a gym rat, and obviously she can shoot it and facilitate play, too,” Banghart said. “But those intangibles will win you a lot of games.”

Banghart, a Souhegan native and former Dartmouth College star, was the founding member of Hodgson’s UNC fan club. As Hodgson was finishing her prep career at New Hampton School, Banghart recruited her to play at Princeton, where Banghart coached from 2007-2019 and won the 2015 Naismith Coach of the Year Award. Hodgson ended up going to William & Mary, where she was the Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year in 2019 and a First-Team All-CAA pick the next year as a sophomore in 2020 after leading the conference in scoring at 20.7 points per game on lights-out shooting (54.0% from the floor, 43.2% from 3 and 91.2% from the free throw line). She then sat out the 2020-21 season with COVID concerns. She spent the winter living, working and practicing at New Hampton, and then entered the NCAA transfer portal.

“Right when I saw her name in the portal I was like, ‘OK, that’s a kid I want,’” Banghart said. “I knew her coming out of high school, obviously, and then I had followed her at William & Mary, I watched a couple of her games, because you don’t want to lose track of a kid like her, and just to support her because there are so few people from New Hampshire at this level. And we’re really happy we got her because she was hard to get. A lot of people wanted her.”

The New Hampshire connection with Banghart was an important piece of Hodgson’s decision to pick UNC. When the coach first called Hodgson, the two of them, “had an hour-long phone conversation that didn’t feel like an hour long because it was like catching up with an old friend,” Hodgson said. They talked hoops, of course, but they also talked about academics and family, which is a huge part of Hodgson’s life and basketball story. Her parents, Gregory and Sherree, both played at Division III Messiah University in Pennsylvania. She is one of seven children, and her older brothers Ezra and Elisha both played D-III college basketball after going to Conant High (where Eva went as a freshman, helping the Orioles to the 2015 championship), and her younger sister Sera, who followed Eva’s footsteps to New Hampton, is a freshman guard for D-I Maine.

After that initial transfer phone call that felt like a call from home, Banghart followed up with advice for Hodgson about applying to UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Hodgson earned an undergraduate degree in business analytics in three years at William & Mary and wanted to work toward an MBA at her next school, a choice that was not supported at every college she considered, but one that Banghart fully encouraged.

All the New Hampshire talk wasn’t just a recruiting ploy by Banghart. She still brings up the Granite State every chance she gets, especially when Hodgson is involved.

“If you’re with Banghart, she will 100 percent always mention, ‘Oh wait, do you know where I’m from? Do you know where Eva is from?’ And every single time it’s like, ‘Now you know two people from New Hampshire,’” Hodgson said with a laugh. “If you ask any of my teammates, that’s my signature — being from New Hampshire.”

Playing for a New Hampshire native has added a level of comfort for Hodgson as she adjusts to a new school and a new level of competition. That comfort works in the other direction, as well.

“There’s a familiarity and also you kind of watch out for each other,” Banghart said when asked about having a player from her home state on her team. “She makes New Hampshire look good, and to know that she can have this kind of career in a Power 5 conference makes me so happy for her and she’s making a huge difference for us.”

After opening the season on a 13-game winning streak, UNC lost its first game of the season last Thursday at rival North Carolina State, a perennial powerhouse loaded with future pros and No. 4 in the latest polls. NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum was sold out and raucous for the contest, and that atmosphere plus the Wolfpack’s talent overwhelmed the young Tar Heels to the tune of 72-45.

“It was an experience that I haven’t had yet coming from a mid-major and New Hampshire and everything, so it was amazing. I loved it,” Hodgson said. “I know our team didn’t respond the way we could have or should have, and that’s something that we’ll learn and grow from, but I enjoyed it, honestly.”

The Tar Heels did seem to learn and grow from the experience, because in their next game on Sunday against Virginia Tech, another talented ACC team, they claimed a 71-46 win and Hodgson finished with a game-high 19 points.

“Our process is what it is and you want every step to be forwards, and that’s not always the way it works,” Banghart said after the Virginia Tech win. “You have to endure some steps backwards and (the NC State loss) was a step backward that we had to endure. But we didn’t let it waver in who we are and what we do, and our guys showed it tonight. We just beat a really good team pretty convincingly by playing both ends really solidly together.”

Put that way, it makes perfect sense Hodgson was the team’s leading scorer on Sunday. No matter where she’s playing ball — from shooting hoops outside in the New Hampshire winter to playing at one of the game’s meccas in Chapel Hill — Hodgson doesn’t waver, either.