Hood, Devils not fretting about Jabari Parker as Clemson looms

Jan. 10, 2014 @ 05:21 PM

The sample size is small, but the early returns say ACC basketball agrees with Rodney Hood.

The Duke redshirt sophomore forward has tallied 27 points in each of his first two league games for the No. 16 Blue Devils, who play at Clemson today (2 p.m., Fox Sports Carolinas) Hood came to Duke (12-3, 1-1) from Mississippi State and sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules.

He’s proven so far he’s capable of starring in one of the nation’s toughest basketball conferences. The 6-8 Hood has made 16 of 29 field goals, including 10 of 17 3-pointers, in Duke’s games against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech over the last seven days.

“Obviously Hood is an exceptional player and really gives you a tough match-up because they played him a lot at the four (power forward),” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said after Hood helped Duke beat his Yellow Jackets 79-57 at Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday night. “He just gives you that flexibility, he’s tough enough to rebound and it’s tough to defend that.”

Hood’s back-to-back strong games have boosted his scoring average to 18.5, which is second on the Blue Devils behind freshman Jabari Parker’s 19.8. Hood’s scoring push has come at a much-needed time for the Blue Devils as Parker has slumped, scoring 19 total points over the last two games.

While there is outside angst over a national player of the year candidate like Parker making only 6 of his last 22 shots, the Blue Devils aren’t sweating it. Hood and point guard Quinn Cook, who had 22 against Notre Dame and 13 Georgia Tech, give Duke plenty of offense.

“Just because he scores 27 and then 25, people get caught up in the hype,” Cook said of Parker. “We have a lot of scorers, and he’s fine seeing Rodney score and seeing Rasheed (Sulaimon) score. Jabari is going to struggle — he’s going to struggle at times. He can score with the best of them and everybody’s seen it.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the Blue Devils’ roster makeup is causing him to ask different things of guys like Hood and Parker. Hood played a lot of power forward against Georgia Tech, while the 6-8 Parker is often asked to play center.

“In some respects, he’s a little bit out of position because if I had a bigger team, I’d be playing him on the wing, which is probably eventually what he’s going to do,” Krzyzewski said of Parker. “So he’s learning a whole bunch of things. As he’s doing that, we’re still Duke and everyone expects us to be perfect, win everything and look great while we’re doing it. And it doesn’t happen that way. This is a work in progress and I want to coach him that way, without putting that extra pressure on him.”

Yes there is inherent pressure that comes with putting on the Duke uniform. This week, following the loss at Notre Dame, the Blue Devils fell out of the Associated Press top 10 for the first time since November 2007.

The NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings released Friday show the Blue Devils at No. 28, behind fellow ACC teams Syracuse (5), Pittsburgh (24) and Florida State (27).

The Blue Devils are accustomed to be better positioned in such rankings. But, though still relatively new to the experience, Hood likes the way his Duke team is improving. Blowing out Georgia Tech in the second half, after the Blue Devils led by one point at intermission, is an example, Hood said.

“Everything’s not going to be pretty,” Hood said. “Every game we’re not going to hit every shot. We might miss defensive assignments, but we’ve got to be able to pick it up like we did in the second half. That shows our maturity. If this was early on in the season, we would’ve been in a dog fight for the rest of the game like with East Carolina or Vermont. But we showed great maturity, we got stops, we scrapped for loose balls, and we pulled it off at the end.”