Duke’s 2013/14 season ended with a shocking first round upset to Mercer, but on an individual level it was an all-around success for standout Rodney Hood. The 6’8″ small forward impressed with his offensive game throughout the year and averaged 16.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.1 APG in 32.9 minutes per contest. Hood, widely regarded as one of the best at his position in the 2014 draft, took some time out of his busy schedule earlier this week to chat with Hoops Rumors about his journey thus far, his skill set, and when he believes he’ll hear his name called on June 26th.
What can you bring to an NBA team?
“I just think I’m ready to play right away. I’m a versatile player, I can guard most positions, I can handle the ball, and I’ve gotten better this season. I’m not the same player I was the year before. I’m ready to contribute to a team.”
It seems like your draft stock skyrocketed over the course of the year. Did your sizable leap surprise you at all?
“No, not really. I always had the vision in mind to be a top-10 pick and that’s something I always worked towards in my year off [due to transferring from Mississippi State] and this year. I think the difference was me just getting better and gaining confidence in my abilities. That’s the biggest jump I’ve had, and I still think I can go up even more.”
Do you view yourself as the best shooter in this draft?
“I feel like I am and I feel like I’m different than everybody else in the draft in terms of being able to shoot the ball and being one of the most athletic guys out there. I think that sets me apart, plus I’m taller than most guys at my position.”
What are the main parts of your game that you want to work on?
“I just want to get stronger and I’m down here at IMG working on all parts of my game. I’m getting better with my shot and doing stuff off the dribble.”
Are you working out individually or with other draft prospects?
“There are others here [at IMG] but I’m training by myself, mainly working out with [coaches] Dan Barto and Kenny Natt.”
How do you respond to concerns over your defense?
“I think it’s way overblown. Obviously, I need to make some improvement, but every game I was guarding the best player, whether they play the 2 or the 3. I won Duke’s Defensive Player of the Year award this year, [coach Mike Krzyzewski] always put me on the best player, so I think Coach K knows what I’m doing out there. I’m not saying I’m the best player on D but I don’t think that’s a big weakness or anything to worry about.”
Do you have an read on where you might get drafted?
“I’m not sure yet. Based on what some people have said and what a couple of teams have told me, I can go from pick No. 6-12 or anywhere in the top 15. That’s what I’ve been hearing. Not from any mock drafts or anything, but just from people I talk to.”
Did you have any hesitation over entering the draft early?
“It was always a goal of mine just to play one year at Duke and then leave for the NBA. It was hard leaving Duke because it’s such a great place to be and being with Coach K was great. I wish I had another year to be under his leadership, but I just felt like it was my time to go. Being at Duke prepared me for this transition.”
The first round loss to Mercer was obviously heartbreaking, but did you feel like you learned from that experience?
“I definitely learned from it. It was tough just being in that situation but I’m a pro now. It’s … it’s just hard to leave on that note but I talked to Coach K and he told me not to base my decision off of one game. I had a really good season and it was just one bad game out of 30-something. I’ll always remember that game though.”
From an emotional standpoint, in the immediate aftermath of that game, did you think about changing course and staying for one more year?
“I think in every kid’s mind, as soon as you get off of a loss, you get emotional and you say you want to come back. But, at the end of day, I had to do what was best for me. For all you know, the same thing could happen next year, so I couldn’t come back for that reason or because I thought I owed something. It was about being ready [for the NBA] and I’m ready to go chase my dream.”
Who did you talk with before making the decision to enter the draft?
“Pretty much everybody. I spoke with my family; I had a lot of conversations with Coach K and Wojo (former Duke Associate Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski). Even though he got the head coaching job at Marquette, I was in constant contact with him. I also talked with Mason Plumlee and a lot of different people, but, mainly, Coach K and my family, and I was praying that I made the right decision.”
If you had to give a scouting report on Jabari Parker for an NBA team, what would you tell them?
“I’d just say he’s a great kid who works hard all the time and is just a great guy to be around. Obviously you can see his talent and that’s the most important thing you see from him, that he just loves the game of basketball.”
What made you choose Travis King and the folks at Relativity to represent you?
“After talking with Travis and Dan Fegan, I felt like it was the best decision for me. They really know my game and they really believe in me as a player. I didn’t want to be just another player, I wanted to be one of the top guys represented by my agent, and I felt like they were the right team for me.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.