Posted Jun 20, 2014 8:33 PM
He played as a high school sensation in his hometown of Meridian, Miss., then one season as a star recruit at Mississippi State and another season as a transfer at Duke with a unique accompanying statement, and yet Rodney Hood is a candidate for the lottery next Thursday and one of the top shooting prospects in the NBA Draft in large part because of when he didn't play
Able to practice at Duke in 2012-13 but blocked from games as part of the transfer process, Hood handled the ball a lot more, often running the scout team in Blue Devil prep for an upcoming opponent. A member of the National Honor Society in high school, he studied basketball intricacies in a way that may not have been possible with a typical college schedule. He gained confidence going against future pros Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry. He focused on coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"I got to learn the game more from Coach K and learn how to be a really good player and not just be a talented player," Hood said.
Duke learned about him too -- once eligible, Hood was named a team captain for 2013-14, high praise for someone yet to actually play there. Together, it became a catapult to Hood shooting 46.4 percent overall and 42 percent on 3-pointers, staying in the lottery conversation and impressing the NBA as a 6-foot-8 sophomore small forward with athleticism and toughness.
"When I first got to Duke, I didn't know when I was going to leave Duke or I didn't have a plan of when it was going to happen," he said. "I just told myself I was going to leave when I felt like the time was right. I got a lot better in my year off. Teams were able to come in and still watch me in practice, and I got a lot better. And this year, I was able to play on a stage where everybody got to see me play for the most part and I played really well. [Leaving] was just a good decision for me."
His schedule confirms it, with workouts as high up the draft board as the Kings, who have the No. 8 pick and need shooting, as well as many others teams down through the Suns at 18. Hood, going No. 12 to the Magic in the latest NBA.com mock draft, isn't the best prospect from his own school (Jabari Parker) and probably isn't the best shooter (Doug McDermott or Nik Stauskas), but he is drawing serious interest as part of his four-year roller-coaster ride from high school to Mississippi State to Duke to the pros.
Other notes heading into the final weekend before the selections in Brooklyn:
• Have the 76ers picked an overseas prospects yet? It's only a question of when and how many times they go draft-and-stash, obviously not wanting seven true rookies in 2014-15 and eight first-year players in all, counting Nerlens Noel, last year's No. 6 choice in 2013 who sat out the 2013-14 season while recovering from knee surgery.
Philadelphia is at No. 3, not the place to take someone to stay in Europe, but also at 10 (Jusuf Nurkic?), followed by two picks in the 30s, prime territory for investment picks to bring over in later years. With trades for future second-round picks a possibility, the Sixers also choose 47, 52 and 54.
• One executive, on Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh, impressive for more than just an expanding offensive game: "Physically, you can just tell he's going to be a stud."
• Syracuse's Tyler Ennis remains a prospect on wheels, with the talent to make a run at the top 10 as the best true (non-Marcus Smart, non-Dante Exum) point guard on the board but also looking at a possible slide because of the draft order. The Kings at No. 8 are looking for a starter and the Magic at 12 may be, depending what Orlando does at No. 4, but after that it's a lot of teams without a pressing need as the steady playmaker positions himself as the contrast to the high risk/high reward of Exum and Smart.
"I think definitely some teams [see that]," Ennis said. "It's a little bit different. It kind of has to do with what pieces they have and whether they need a point or whether they need a scorer. I think either way, I can fill both needs if that's what the team needs me to do. They're not just getting a point guard that's able to control the team. If they ask me to score at some point throughout the season a little bit more than others, then I'm more than happy to do it."
He is No. 16 to the Bulls, as Derrick Rose insurance, in the NBA.com mock draft.
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