HITTING THE JACKPOT?

Jun. 25, 2014 @ 09:03 PM

Brought together to lead Duke to another NCAA championship, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood saw their Blue Devil careers end far short of that.

Yet, even though they played just one season together for coach Mike Krzyzewski, they formed a bond they will carry into the next level of basketball at the NBA Draft tonight.

Having worked out for only the draft’s top teams, Parker said Milwaukee has told him it will take him with the No. 2 pick if he’s available.

Hood made a tour of NBA teams this month, holding 11 workouts. From Phoenix and Sacramento to Charlotte and Philadelphia, Hood showed off his accurate shooting stroke for them all.

All along, Hood and Parker remained in close contact, trading notes and talking basketball.

“I’ve been working out for a lot more teams than he has,” Hood said Wednesday. “But it’s been great going through it with somebody that you know and care about and you hope he does well. I know he hopes that I do well.”

Parker led Duke in scoring with 19.1 points per game on the way to being named a first-team all-American as a freshman. Hood was next at 16.1 points per game while also carrying the responsibility as a team captain for the Blue Devils.

In those pre-draft workouts, Hood has impressed teams such that Sacramento at No. 8 and Charlotte at No. 9 have considered him for those slots.

“It’s because of his work ethic and his heart,” Parker said. “He speaks for himself because he doesn’t have any time to settle. From us talking, he was saying `I’ve got to do 10 to 15 workouts’ but it was more of him being optimistic about it, looking forward to those chances that he gets. That’s one guy that I always look up to. That was my mentor in college. To see him move up is spectacular.”

Hood, who’ll turn 22 this October, spent two years at Duke, sitting out the 2012-13 season under NCAA transfer rules before starring last season alongside Parker. Of course, the 19-year-old Parker only played one season of college basketball.

Duke went 26-9 last season, advancing to the ACC Tournament final before losing to Virginia. But it was a stunning 78-71 NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer that brought their Duke careers to an end.

In that game, Hood was 2 of 10 from the field for six points while Parker hit just 4 of 14 shots for 14.

Krzyzewski said Duke had a good season that had a bad ending. Despite that, during an interview with The Herald-Sun last week, he said he sees only success ahead in the NBA for Parker and Hood.

“Rodney and Jabari are both on a trajectory like this,” Krzyzewski said, holding his hand at an upward incline. “Whether they stayed here or they left, they were going to get better. This spring, both of them have gotten better.”

In Parker, whom he called “the best scorer in the draft,” Krzyzewski said a leg injury that slowed him as a high school senior didn’t allow him to be at his absolute best at Duke. That’s changed over the last three months as he’s grown more comfortable.

“He played his senior year (of high school) as a different guy because he wasn’t able to train,” Krzyzewski said. “This past year he had a terrific year but that’s a serious injury. I think he was still becoming the player he used to be. This spring, he’s become the player he will be. He’s really playing well. We saw it at a real high level and then he’d have a bad game or whatever. Overall he had a terrific year but he’s now ready to be even better.”

How good? Krzyzewski sees Parker averaging 20-25 points per game in the NBA almost immediately.

In the 6-8 Hood, he sees a “prototype 2 guard” for the NBA who can make an immediate positive impact.

“He can shoot, drive and defend,” Krzyzewski said. “He shows up every day. He has no demons. So he is going to impress you and he has. He can be a starter right away for a good team. That puts him in position where he can be a lottery pick.”

Parker will go at the top of the lottery. Hood will go in the middle or the bottom of the first 14 picks.

But, rather than feel like he’s being overshadowed by his younger former teammate, Hood said he’s slow close to Parker that he’s just thrilled to see him succeed.

“Jabari’s like a little brother to me,” Hood said. “he deserves everything that he’s getting right now. He’s been great in his workouts. We’ll be friends forever. That’s my guy.”