Hood, Parker bring versatility to Blue Devils
With Duke’s big three seniors from last season gone to the NBA, the Blue Devils are building around the unique versatile talents of two players who’ve yet to play a game for them.
Redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood, who sat out last season after transferring from Mississippi State, and highly touted freshman Jabari Parker are the centerpieces to an up-tempo, aggressive style Duke will display this basketball season.
“We’ve had some teams like that in the past but not in the most recent past,” Duke coach Krzyzewski said Friday. “Our team this year will be a lot different than really any of the teams we’ve had over the last decade. How we play defense, the versatility of it. I hope we’re as good as some of the teams we’ve had over the last decade.”
Last year’s Duke team, featuring center Mason Plumlee, forward Ryan Kelly and guard Seth Curry, went 30-6 and reached the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. All three are beginning their professional careers with NBA camps opening.
In their places, the 6-8 forwards Hood and Parker are expected to have Duke in contention for an ACC championship, a Final Four berth and perhaps the program’s fifth national championship.
Their talents will play into some of the approaches Krzyzewski has taken while coaching the U.S. Olympic team to gold medals in 2008 and 2012.
“Our two best players are very versatile,” Krzyzewski said. “They are not in a certain spot on the floor. When you had J.J. Redick, you are doing things for a shooter. With Jason Williams and Shane Battier there is a pick-and-roll situation that really most people were not able to defend. Then you compliment it.
“These two guys are not those type of players. They are a little bit more like the guys on the Olympic team. Where do you put LeBron James? You put him anywhere.”
Hood practiced with the Blue Devils last season while sitting out under NCAA transfer rules. He averaged 10.3 points per game in 2011-12 at Mississippi State and was an all-Southeastern Conference freshman team pick.
Parker was among the nation’s top recruits while leading Chicago’s Simeon High School to four consecutive Illinois state championships.
“Offensively, we’re going to be making a lot of plays,” Hood said. “Other guys make plays, but we’re going to create a lot of mismatches offensively. A ‘4’ is probably going to be guarding (Parker), so he’s going to have that mismatch, and we’re going to create a lot of switches.”
Krzyzewski said Friday that Hood was named one of the team’s captains, along with senior guard Tyler Thornton.
Hood’s performance on and off the court while practicing, but not playing games, last season led Krzyzewski to support him for a captain.
“He handled that situation very well and many times was our best player,” Krzyzewski said. “Now, being the best player in a blue shirt and no pressure on you, we’ll see now with a white shirt and pressure on you what happens. But I think good things will happen.”
Duke began basketball practice Friday under a new NCAA guideline. It allows teams to hold 30 practices over the 42 days leading up to their season-opening game. The Blue Devils begin the season Nov. 8 at home against Davidson.
Krzyzewski said, as practice begins, Hood and Parker are starters along with sophomore forward Amile Jefferson and point guard Quinn Cook. The fifth starting job is currently up for grabs on what he expects to be a deep team.
Krzyzewski said Jefferson may compliment Hood and Parker’s talents as well as anyone on the team. He’s also happy with how Cook has improved his on-the-ball defense.
“His ball pressure has been outstanding,” Krzyzewski said. “He has elevated that tremendously. He’ll be in a little bit different role. But his ball pressure, that can really help. We will need to pressure the ball.”
Krzyzewski said all of Duke’s returning players will have to adjust to the new playing style. That includes sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon, who started 33 of Duke’s 36 games last season.
Sulaimon said he knows the coaches want the players to bring hard work and intensity every single day to earn playing time.
“I really think with this team we are really deep this year,” Sulaimon said. “You can substitute guys in and out and there is very little drop off. Guys understand that and it starts on the defensive end with energy and effort.”