Rodney Hood: Mississippi roots with a Duke touch

Jun. 26, 2014 @ 11:31 AM

Rodney Hood proudly talks of his small-town Mississippi roots, where he grew up playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club where his father worked.

“I don’t think I’d be the same person if I wasn’t from there,” said Hood, a projected first-round pick in tonight’s NBA Draft. “Mississippi made me who I am. I say that all the time. That’s a  big part of me and will continue to be a big part of me.”

Durham, though, and Duke in particular, made an equally as impressive impression on the 21-year-old Hood that he said will impact him as his life changes dramatically with tonight’s NBA Draft.

The 6-8 Hood transferred from Mississippi State to Duke in 2012, sat out one season under NCAA transfer rules and was an all-ACC player last season for the Blue Devils.

Life at Duke offered different experiences for Hood, which he said he needed.

“Going to Duke it really helped me mold into a man,” Hood said. “Going there and being away from home for the first time. The people at Duke were great for me. They welcomed me with open arms. I learned a lot and I met some great people. People I will be in touch with and be friends with for a lifetime. So I’ll never forget the times I had and Duke the friends I made at Duke. They made me flourish as a person. I appreciate everything they did for me.”
As he regularly is with his NBA-bound players, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has counseled Hood throughout his transition from college to the NBA. They spoke Tuesday night after Hood completed his final pre-draft workout with the Charlotte Hornets.

“He’s been a great mentor to me, a guy who has always had my back and believed in me as a player,” Hood said. “He held me accountable. That’s the main thing I’m going to have to do once I get into the NBA is to be accountable. The things he taught to me I’ll take with me throughout my career.”

Former Duke teammates Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly have also aided Hood. The three practiced together in 2012-13 when Hood was sitting out and Plumlee and Kelly were seniors.

Both had solid rookie seasons in the NBA last season.

Plumlee, a first-round pick by Brooklyn, averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds as  reserve and was selected to the NBA’s all-rookie team. Kelly, a second-round pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, started 25 games and averaged 8.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Hood talked to both about the NBA Draft process and NBA life.

“It’s been great having that resource,” Hood said.

Krzyzewski is adamant that Hood, with his shooting, versatility and leadership, is capable of starting as a rookie for a good NBA team. Hood said Krzyzewski only served to boost his confidence while he was going through pre-draft workouts.

“He knows me like a book” Hood said. “He told me to stay confident and keep doing what I was doing because I was doing a pretty good job.”

Tonight, Hood will discover where he’ll start his NBA career and what the fruits of all this labor will be. In some ways, he still has a hard time wrapping his mind around it all.

“It’s amazing,” Hood said. “Some people didn’t expect me to be here. Sometimes I didn’t expect myself to be here. It’s just an amazing feeling. Me being from a small town in Mississippi and everybody counting on me. It’s been great.”