Before arriving at Duke University in July of 2012, Rodney Hood earned SEC All-Freshmen honors as a starter for Mississippi State. The Meridian, MS, native then moved on to Durham, where—after sitting out his transfer year—he’d finish his college career as an All-ACC player and team captain for Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils.
Now, the versatile, 6-8 wing with a sweet stroke from long-range is preparing to continue his lifelong journey from Mississippi to the League.
Regarded by many as one of the best shooters in this year’s loaded draft class, Hood’s future is bright. NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper projects Hood as the 12th overall pick in his latest mock draft. Gary Parrish at CBS has Hood’s name coming off the board with the 13th pick and Draft Express has him slotted for 15th.
With a number of team workouts and visits set on his upcoming schedule, and several already completed, Hood feels he is NBA-ready. He’s focused on doing everything he can to make an immediate impact at the next level for whichever team calls his name on June 26.
SLAM caught up with Rodney over the weekend while he was training at IMG Academy in Florida.
SLAM: How was that overall experience of playing for Coach K?
Rodney Hood: It was great playing for Coach K. I was able to come in there and be a captain my first year playing at Duke. I developed a great relationship with Coach and he made me a better player. I also developed a great bond with my teammates. That’s why I went there.
SLAM: You were named as a captain before ever playing a game at Duke. What were the things Coach K asked of you in that role?
RH: For me, it was putting winning first. Coach told me that he wanted me to lead by example. I always did the right thing. I wanted to make sure things got done. So Coach believed in me, my teammates also believed in me and chose me as a captain. I enjoyed every minute of it and think I did a good job.
SLAM: What will you bring to the NBA team that selects you?
RH: I’m ready to play now, right off the bat. I’m a guy who can defend multiple positions and be able to score the ball. I’m going to be taller than a lot of guys on the wing. With my size, I can get into the lane and make a lot of things happen. And just being a guy that’s going to come in and add to the team right away—that’s the biggest thing I can offer. I can spread the floor from a shooting perspective, and on the defensive end I’m going to cause havoc guarding smaller guys as well as guys my size.
SLAM: What feedback did you receive from the teams you interviewed with at the Draft Combine in Chicago?
RH: The Combine was a great experience. Other than the top guys like Jabari and Wiggins and those guys, I didn’t really understand why the other guys dropped out. The NBA put this together for us to all come together and compete in front of all 30 teams at one time. I just saw it as a great opportunity to show what I can do. I thought I did well. Teams told me I did well. The teams I spoke with were really impressed. I felt like I helped myself with the way I shot the ball and competed at both ends. It was also great to get familiar with some of the guys who were there, to get to know them and compete with them a little bit.
SLAM: What are some aspects of your game that you’re working to improve on specifically right now?
RH: My body. That’s the main thing I’m working on right now. The more I improve my body, my game will expand from there. I’ll be able to post-up even more, rebound more, things like that. So my body, and I’m also working to improve my ball-handling. I can handle the ball well right now, but I want to be an even better ball-handler. And I’m working on a number of other things, too, but those are two of the main areas.
SLAM: Can you describe what a typical day involves for you at IMG right now?
RH: I get up at 7:30, and I first go and eat a healthy breakfast. Following a healthy diet plan is something I’m focused on. So I get up, eat breakfast, then I go to the weight room. I’m stretching out when I first get there. Then I’m lifting weights—light lifting, every day. After that, we go outside into the heat and we work through footwork and agility training drills. When that work’s done we get on the court. Sometimes I’m on the floor with another player and other times it’s a combination of guys. Then we’re also doing individual work with my trainers, Dan Barto and Kenny Natt. So we spend the rest of the day on the court, and it’s back doing the same thing the next day.
SLAM: You played with Jabari Parker at Duke last year and now you’re both entering the NBA together. What is your relationship like with Jabari, how often do you guys stay in touch?
RH: Jabari is my brother. Before the Draft, before anything else, we’re brothers. Our relationship will last a lifetime. When I was at the combine in Chicago we talked on the phone, things like that. Him being from Chicago, he also helped me out when I needed to get my haircut that week [laughs]. But we developed a great relationship at Duke and it’s a relationship that’s bigger than basketball.
SLAM: Your home state of Mississippi has produced NBA players like Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Travis Outlaw and others. Now you’re next up. What did it mean to see those guys find success in the League growing up?
RH: Having those guys to look up to meant a lot. I remember watching Monta when he was in high school. Same with Travis Outlaw and Mo Williams. Watching all of those guys growing up, it gives you hope. And now we have a new wave of guys from Mississippi like myself, LaQuinton Ross who played at Ohio State and Johnny O’Bryant of LSU. That success keeps giving the kids in Mississippi someone to look up to and a reason for hope. And that’s really the biggest thing, being able to have hope and positivity throughout our state. There are things kids are faced with that are negative growing up in Mississippi, a lot of kids in poverty. So to grow up and see all of these different guys making it, it gave me hope and that’s what I want to give the kids who watch me. Just like those guys did for us.
SLAM: Which players do you study while trying to improve your own game?
RH: Of course everyone watches LeBron and KD. But besides that, there are four guys that I watch and study very thoroughly in terms of developing my game. Guys like Paul George, who has a similar body type. He’s able to guard multiple positions, gets down the floor and competes at both ends. Joe Johnson is another guy I watched growing up, especially during his time with Atlanta. Manu Ginobili is another one, naturally, because he’s also a lefty and with him being able to score from multiple different spots on the court. And then James Harden, too, how he controls his body and uses his left hand to get space. So those are the four guys I’ve been watching a lot.
SLAM: From an off-the-court perspective, what kind of guy is the team that drafts Rodney Hood going to add to their locker room?
RH: They’d be getting a great guy, first of all. Everybody I’ve been around, all the teammates and coaches I’ve had, they can all attest to that. I’m a guy who is going to come to work every single day and work hard. I’m not going to ever get complacent. I’m a great teammate and locker room guy, someone who is competitive and is going to work to get better every single day. Those are things I pride myself on.
SLAM: Heat vs Spurs for the NBA Title, who’s your pick to win it?
RH: I don’t really have a favorite team to be honest. But after watching the Heat close out Indiana, the way they did it, they’re just playing really good basketball right now. So after watching that, I’d have to say the Heat.