Ten questions with 2014 NBA draft prospect Rodney Hood
It's never easy being the "other" prospect, playing second fiddle in college and throughout the pre-draft process to a higher-profile teammate. But that's life for Rodney Hood, as Duke teammate Jabari Parker is in contention to be selected with the No. 1 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.
But Hood isn't just along the for the ride. A 6-foot-8, 208-pound left-handed small forward out of Meridian, MS., Hood is a potential lottery pick in his own right thanks to a multi-dimensional offensive game and a reliable jumper. The 21-year-old Hood averaged 16.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Blue Devils last season after transferring from Mississippi State, where he earned All-SEC Freshman Team honors. That transfer forced Hood to sit out the 2012-13 season, but he was able to work on his game with Duke's coaches and then team with Parker during his standout one-and-done year.
That partnership, Hood told SI.com on Tuesday as he prepared for his last pre-draft workout before heading to New York City, was mutually-beneficial, as it allowed him to show that he could succeed as a complementary player. With good size for a wing and a shooting stroke that saw him hit 42 percent of his threes last year, Hood leans towards "polished" rather than "project" on the development spectrum. Although there might be questions about his upside -- Finch, an anonymous NBA scout, called Hood "a little vanilla" -- Hood has all the makings of a long-term pro. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix and the SI.com Composite Mock Draft both peg Hood going No. 16 to the Bulls, who have a hole to fill at small forward after trading Luol Deng.
Here are 10 questions and answers with Hood in advance of Thursday's draft.
SI.com: When did you first have the sense you could be an NBA player?
Rodney Hood: "It happened back in high school. I hit a big growth spurt between my 10th and 11th grade years. My 10th grade year I was 6-foot-4 and I grew to like 6-foot-7, but I still had my guard skills. I was playing point guard, I was a big guard. People started calling me 'Penny Hardaway' - comparing me to him because I was a big guard. I was the only 6-foot-8 point guard to come around Mississippi at the time. I had a great junior and senior year. I was able to lead my team to two straight state championships, I lost one but won the second one. It was just great, I could do a lot more things with my height.
"It's always been my goal to make it to the NBA. I didn't realize I would be a first-rounder until this year. About halfway through the season I realized I could achieve my goals as far as being a first-round pick."
SI.com: You were one of 20 players invited to the Green Room for the draft. Was that a relief or did it just make you more nervous?
Rodney Hood: "I was happy that I got invited. Before this process started, I didn't think I was going to be in there, so to hear my name be mentioned in this group is great. I didn't know what went into people choosing which people would go to the Green Room. I didn't know if it was college basketball analysts -- if it was that, I wouldn't get invited. It's kind of a popularity thing, that's why I didn't think at first I would be there. But then I went to workouts and proved myself, I knew I would be able to get invited. It's going to be exciting to be inside the Green Room. Some guys might think it's a little nerve-wracking because you don't want to be one of those guys left in there. But I'm just blessed to be in this position."
SI.com: What are you hearing as far as where you will land?
Rodney Hood: "I've been hearing everything from mid-to-late lottery, to right outside the lottery. I think 16 is probably the lowest that I've heard."
SI.com: What are you looking for in your ideal NBA landing place?
Rodney Hood: "My goal is to go to the right team. I want to be [a lottery pick], but at the same time I want to go to the right team, compete in the playoffs, and make an impact right away. There's a lot of really good players who didn't make the lottery, like Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. It matters what I do after draft night, not what I do on draft night. I want a great organization that's building towards winning, or winning already. I want to go to a team that needs a guy like me, a shooter, a guy who can do a lot of things offensively, that can use me right away. That's where I want to go."
SI.com: You've worked out for a majority of the teams in the lottery. What do you think you've shown to NBA executives during the pre-draft process?
Rodney Hood: "I showed what I can do. Everybody has their perception of a player during a college season. Once I got to Chicago and in draft workouts, I proved I deserved to be one of the top guys. Offensively, I think I'm versatile, I can do a lot of things. I can shoot the ball, that's my biggest strength. I can post up. I'm getting stronger and getting my footwork down so I can post up more. In pick-and-roll situations I think I'm really good at making the right play. Just getting into the lane and making things happen. During the season I was much more of a shooter. Now I'm working on other parts of my game.
"[Teams are] seeing that I can handle the ball better than they thought, that I can do more things defensively. They think I've got the tools to be a really good defender, which is something they didn't see during the season. Getting a chance to look at me up close and personal. During the season it was me and Jabari [Parker], now it's just me."
SI.com: Do you think Parker should be the first player taken?
Rodney Hood: "I'd take Jabari at No. 1 but we never know. From a talent standpoint, I think it's obvious he's the most talented player in the draft. He's a worker, too. He can shoot, he can do anything he wants to on the court."
SI.com: How did playing with Parker affect both of your games?
Rodney Hood: "I think we're the best wing duo in the country. Playing with him helped me because I learned how to play with other great players. That will help me going into the NBA, because I'll play with other great players. I took a lot of pressure off of him. He came in with a bullseye on his back, and I did a good job of scoring the ball and doing other things. I helped him along from the mental standpoint of the game in college. We just helped each other throughout the season."
SI.com: Which players have you molded your game after?
Rodney Hood: "I love to watch [Manu] Ginobili, him being a left-handed guy. I like to watch Paul George, he has a similar body type, a guy who can defend and play on the other end. Joe Johnson, I've always been watching him, as a smooth player who can create for himself and shoot the ball."
SI.com: What will you work on between the draft and the start of the 2014-15 season?
Rodney Hood: "I'm trying to get a lot stronger, get better footwork offensively and defensively. Just continue to build on that. Get my body right, that's the thing I have to do to produce right away. I'm trying to add strength pretty much everywhere, I need help in all areas. Upper body I got a little bigger. My lower body, I need to get my strength up because I'm going to be doing a lot more banging than I did in college.
"I think I can guard both [the two and the three], I think I'm versatile enough to do that. I need to continue to get stronger so that I can guard threes in the post, and I need to continue to get quicker laterally so I can guard twos or sometimes even point guards in certain situations."
SI.com: What was the biggest lesson you'll remember from coach Mike Krzyzewski?
Rodney Hood: "Presence, confidence. That's the thing I learned in my two years at Duke. Always have a presence on and off the court. You can't shy away from who you are. That's the thing I learned from him."