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Welcome To The Hood: A Rodney Hood Exclusive

6’8″ Rodney Hood of Duke University, Photo by Andrew Slater

Blue Devil Nation was the first to have an exclusive one on one interview with Rodney Hood after he transferred to Duke from Mississippi State.  This interview ran for our BDN Premium members in early July and we are now opening the article up for the public to give you an idea of the articles you will find in our extended subscription service.  Enjoy getting to Rodney Hood -

In early April, Rodney Hood announced he would transfer from Mississippi State after his freshman season. It was a tumultuous year, one in which Hood, along with recent NBA lottery picks Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Brad Beal, earned SEC All-Freshman honors, but which also ended with his Bulldogs getting knocked out by UMass in the opening round of the NIT.

With Hood looking for a fresh start, Duke, a program that had recruited the former McDonald’s All-American in high school, quickly rose to the top of his new list. In early June, the Meridien, Mississippi native made the journey up to Durham to visit Duke and to meet face-to-face with the coaches. Basketball was the one constant throughout the visit, as Rodney enjoyed hanging with his prospective teammates — eating, talking, and of course playing ball.  Hood also was impressed by the refreshing candidness of Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who watched Hood’s game footage at Mississippi State with him. He pointed out things that they could work to improve upon, and also reviewed footage of Grant Hill playing at Duke. The freedom that Grant Hill played with while at Duke certainly appealed to the 6’8″ 204 lb Hood.

After narrowing his list down to Ohio State and Duke, Rodney chose to be a Blue Devil. On Wednesday, he officially moved in, and will be roommates with sophomore point guard Quinn Cook. Hood and Cook, a born salesman, talked throughout the recruiting process and have built a relationship. Hood, a good student in high school, has enrolled in classes in Psychology and Advertising during this second summer session at Duke.

Along with Duke rising seniors Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, Rodney is one of the select college players invited by Nike to its prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy this weekend. The left-handed wing player shot the basketball very well in the opening session, impressing several NBA scouts with his mix of size, skill, and versatility.

In his first interivew since enrolling at Duke, Hood spoke exclusively with me about a variety of topics, including a NCAA Championship run, improving his body in this coming year, what he will bring to the Duke program, being a competitive teammate, and unpacking his bags.

 

We’ll get into why you chose Duke in a second, but why don’t we start off with your reasons for transferring?  Your dad had mentioned in an article that this wasn’t a last-second decision, that you had thought about this for a few months. 

Yeah, it was just a situation where we had a coaching change and there were a lot of changes throughout the program, so I decided to look elsewhere. It was just a personal decision and that’s what I decided to do.

What were your reasons for choosing Duke?

You know, it’s just a high level of basketball. Coach K is evidently the best coach in basketball.  It also gets me out of my comfort zone. We are going to have a chance to compete for a National Championship.

I’d like to talk to you about that in a moment, but one of the things that I saw that you had mentioned that you liked in your meeting with Coach K was that he talked about specifics. What did he envision for you?

He just envisioned me being one of the best players in the country on one of the best teams and being able to play there.  He was very honest with me.  We watched tape and he was honest about my game.

He watched tape with or of you at Mississippi State?

Yes, and he told me what I needed to work on and, for me, there were just a lot of little things that I didn’t know about myself and my game.

That’s interesting. 

And so it was great. 

Out of curiosity, did he compare you to any players? I know that sometimes he does that. I remember, for instance, him talking with Kyle Singler about that.

 Well, we watched a little of Grant Hill’s tape.

Well, you’re around the same height.

Yeah, we’re kinda the same build, but we’re different kind of players. But the freedom that he gave Grant Hill back in the day, he said he would put me in those sort of situations.

That’s also interesting.

Yeah.

Did you know any of the guys on the team beforehand? Guys like Quinn?

Oh, yeah, I’ve been on campus already since Wednesday. I room with Quinn and we talked throughout the whole recruiting process. I also talked a lot with Rasheed and Amile and all of those guys.

Well, they’re all very nice.

Oh, yeah, definitely. 

What did Coach K say that he would like to work with you on in the next year?

More than anything, my body.

Your body?

Yeah, not just really adding weight, but adding a whole lot of strength. Just falling in love with being in shape.

Yeah, I think if you just got a little more developed in the upper body and keep working on your ball skills,  you’d be pretty unstoppable at this level.

Yeah, that’s what we talked about. We talked about falling in love with being in shape. You know, if you can get into shape, you can do a lot more things and it just elevates your game..stuff like that. Oh, and obviously skill work, but more just about getting my body in shape.

Now for you is it more about strength or conditioning or, frankly, both?

Yeah, it’s really both, really. You know, KD, Kevin Durant, he runs all of the time, and he’s not the strongest guy, but he’s effective because he’s mobile and he runs. But you know, I have to add strength to be the type of player that I want to become. 

I’ve been watching you a lot in the last two days, and it looks like you make a conscious effort to try to get open. Yesterday, you shot the ball really well, but you’re constantly moving without the ball here.

Yeah, yeah, a lot of it’s just repetition, just staying in the gym.  Just focusing on getting better.

For fans who may not have seen you play at Mississippi State or in high school, what are you going to bring to the program? There are a lot of fans that are excited about you coming.

I’m a player that can play on both ends of the court. You know, gets out there on defense, and offensively I’m very versatile.  I can make plays, I can shoot the basketball, I can post-up.

You knocked down fifty three-pointers.

Yeah, I can do a lot of stuff. I’m just excited to get in there and try to win a National Championship. It’s one of my goals.

As a lefty, what advantages do you have?

You know, there are a lot of advantages. Guys are not used to going against lefties. That’s why Ginobili and guys like that, Zach Randolph, guys are not used to guarding them every single day. I think it gives you an advantage.

Also, as a shot-blocker, you’re facing a lot of righties and you have a natural advantage of being able to block their shot with your left hand. 

Yeah, it’s very easy to contest a right-hander’s shot. 

What would you say is your go-to move, for fans who haven’t seen you play?

I’d say my go-to move, well, I like to do a lot of jab series. That’s basically my go-to move — I like to jab.

Where do you like to shoot the ball? It seemed like yesterday it was, like a lot of players, dead center.

Well, pretty much everywhere, but mainly dead center in the middle of the court. I try to get open spaces.

Then today you tried to work on the wing and down along the baseline.

Yeah, I was trying to work on that.

In terms of strength and conditioning, what do you currently weigh and what are you hoping to do in terms of your body?

Well, right now, I’m 204. 

Are you 6’8” or about there?

Yeah, I’m 6’8.” Definitely, I’m 6’8.”

Well, what are you hoping to get to?

I want to get to about 212 at least of muscle. I’m not a guy that wants to get real bulky and I’m never going to be that type of guy, but as long as I keep getting strength, I’ll be fine. 

You want to add that lean muscle.

Yes, absolutely.

Is there a guy you tried to model your game after, when you were growing up?

I love Penny.  Penny Hardaway. 

He’s another 6’8,” 6’9” guy that was skilled.

Yeah, I watched him play a lot and just tried to model my game after him. The way he makes plays and made his team better.

Do you think that you’re a pretty good passer?

I am. I can make a lot of passes. I can see over the defense a lot. Just like in football, where guys, well, quarterbacks can see over the defense. I can help find the open man.  

Yeah, it’s such an advantage if you can. Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself? A little bit about your background. I know you’re from Meridian and your dad played ball. 

Yeah, I’m from Mississippi, born and raised. I love it there, but I also love to have fun. I’m a regular kid. I’m not going to get in no trouble..on purpose. You know, nobody’s perfect, but I just love to have fun. 

You’re not going to be a knucklehead off the court, right?

Oh, no. 

What about your family?

Yeah, my mom and my dad both played ball, my brother and sister both played ball on the Division I level. My dad played pro overseas.

Are you the youngest?

Yeah, I’m the youngest, so it’s good having that knowledge in front of you. 

It probably helps a lot, coming from a basketball family.  

It does. 

What are you hoping to accomplish at the skills academy?

Just getting better by playing against the best wing players and the best players in the country. Just getting better every single time you step on the court. 

Can you recap the visit to Duke?

It was mostly just basketball, really. You know, we talked basketball almost the entire time. We ate, we talked basketball. We played, we talked basketball. We talked basketball afterwards. That was pretty much it. (laughs) I liked it.

You mentioned before that you’re looking to make a title run in 2014. You guys might be stacked. 

Yeah, definitely, we’re going to be pretty good. You know, in that year, we’re going to be pretty good. I’m just anxious, you know, the freshmen that are coming in now are going to develop and we’ve got some guys that will come in next year. 

It sounds like recruiting’s going pretty well. 

That’s what I hear. I think we’re also going to be pretty versatile as far as defense and, well, offensively, too. It’s going to be pretty exciting. 

What’s your schedule for the rest of the summer?

I’m going to be at summer school at Duke. 

The second session?

Yeah, I may be at a couple of more camps, but I’m not sure yet.

Since you just mentioned it, defensively, what are you going to do for the program?

I’m just a guy that can get out there and guard your 1, 2, or 3, and at the college level, even a 4.  

That’s impressive versatility on defense. 

Yeah, it is. 

On the AAU level, I always thought that you were a really good teammate.

Yeah, I just love to compete. I think I bring the best out of my teammates, you know, challenging them every single day and, well, they’re challenging me too. 

It’ll  be great in practice this year.

Yeah, it will.

What about your major? Have you thought about that at all?

No, not really. 

Well, it’s still early for you.

I’m taking an advertising and  psychology class right now for summer.

I remember you were a good high school student. 

Yeah, I was. 

What are you interested in doing when you stop playing? Have you thought about that at all?

Well, I still want to be involved in basketball. 

Coaching or announcing?

I don’t know about coaching.  There’s a lot of personalities (laughs), but we’ll see.

Did you have a favorite team growing up?

You mean NBA team?

Yeah.

No, not really. 

I didn’t know, growing up in Mississippi, which direction you would be looking.

Yeah, I didn’t really have a team.

One person had told my privately that they thought you were really disciplined growing up. Is that true?

Yeah, my high school coach really instilled in me discipline, you know, on and off the court. You know, doing the little things can help you go a long way. It’s been paying off so far. I just got to keep focussing on doing the little things.

What do you like to do for fun off the court?

Play video games, card games, just regular card games. (laughs)

Have you had an opportunity to see any USA Basketball this weekend? Will you get to?

No, but I think we’re going to go see them tomorrow. I’m very excited to see them.

You’re obviously a very good shooter. How are you trying to develop that?

Just repetition. You know, as a shooter, I’m just always trying to add repetition. 

In one of the articles I read for preparation, one of your ex-teammates said you might be a one-and-done.

I never said that. 

It was your ex-teammate, Moultrie, who said it.

Oh, no, it’s however long it takes to be ready. I never think of it that way. 

So, you’re “unpacking your bags,” so to speak?

Yeah, I am.

Thank you so much for doing this.

Oh, sure.

LeBron James Skills Academy, Adidas Invitational Updates

Shabazz Muhammad is but a single player BDN Premium will follow this week.

BDN Recruiting analyst Andrew Slater is currently sending back live reports to members on the Blue Devil Nation Premium Message Board.  He’s checking out the skills portion of opening night at the LeBron James Skills Academy and he’ll float to Akron for the Adidas Invitational this week.  He will of course be checking in with all the major Duke prospects as the coaching staff can see prospects play during the open period and will be present at the events.  Don’t miss any of the reports from BDN by joining today.  We set the standard for complete AAU Basketball coverage of Duke prospects and we are sure you’ll enjoy what we have to offer.  Whether you like in person player analysis, prospect videos, or our famous in depth interviews, BDN brings you the highest quality of coverage available on any Duke site.

Duke Basketball Recruiting Update – the latest on the red hot AAU trail awaits

Shabazz Muhammad rattles the rim during the TOC. The Duke coaches will be out in force to see their major prospects in July and BDN Premium will be there to report firsthand the information you most covet. Our latest recruitng update is finished and you can enjoy it and much more by becoming a members of Blue Devil Nation Premium - Photo credit - BDN Photo and Rick Crank

The Duke Men’s Basketball staff is in route to several locations today where they’ll evaluate the countries top prospects.  Coach Nate James will board a flight to Germany this afternoon where he will follow Team USA.  His main focus will be on Quinn Cook, a PG prospect which you have surely heard a lot of lately.  Sources say that Krzyzewski likes what he has seen of Cook who has yet to be tendered an official offer but that could change in the coming weeks.

Coach Krzyzewski and Chris Collins are headed to Indianapolis for the Adidas Nations event which starts tomorrow.  There, they will focus in on several different prospects in an effort to fine tune their targets list.  That list will begin to take shape quickly and probably solidify by the time the AAU National finish up.  The pair will then travel to [private] Akron for the LeBron James Skills Academy and be a part of media mania surrounding James and his pending decision.  Andre is already reporting a slew of media outlets hanging out which in short, means a circus atmosphere of fun.  Well, hopefully, fun.

The reason for the surge in interest with Quinn Cook is that Duke expects a mass exodus in that they feel this is a pretty good team coming this fall.  Singler and Smith will obviously go and they are expecting freshman Kyrie Irving to as well.  Duke feels Irving could be a lottery pick.  Also on the watch list to go pro will be Mason Plumlee.

We hinted to you that our feelings on Marshall Plumlee in past updates .  The Duke brothers Plumlee of  Mason and Miles were honored in me state for being a part of a national championship team.  We will elaborate more once we make the appropriate contacts with concern to Marshall.  The Plumlees are scheduled to return to Durham and participate in the NC Pro Am likely making it by Thursday at the latest.  We have confirmed that you will see many Duke players at the event starting this week.  Back to Marshall, Duke envisions him as a post player or center and with the aforementioned expected exodus of players to the pro’s, scholarships should still be available for another player if necessary.

As I have said, Andrew Slater will be on the scene and he will check out Marshall in Indy.  For the record,Plumlee was invited to the LeBron James Skills Academy but Adidas needed their best players.  Coaches will turn out for the event tomorrow and we have already received reports that Eric Gordon is making the rounds.  The coaches can check out the James camp on July the 7th which as we have already mentioned will.

Marshall Plumlee set to go in Indy

One of the first names that come forward as being a possibility is none other than Quincy Miller, the outstanding in state prospect who will play alongside Deuce Bello this season.  They more than realize Miller will take it down to the last possible day, but they’ll stick around for the ride.  Miller would simply be the icing on the cake, a luxury, but Duke is in no way tossing all their eggs in Millers basket.  Speaking of Deuce Bello, he still lists Duke and we will have a short interview up with him shortly.  James is the lead assistant for the ultra athletic Bello who rose in most of the prospect rankings.

Duke will have 10 on scholarship this year and they expect to lose at least 4, so up to  7 scholarships are  available.  Duke would love to fill a couple of those with Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Murphy and Kaleb Tarczewski from the class of 2012.  Duke will continue to recruit and evaluate these kids monitoring them closely.

Okay, everybody is always asking about Austin Rivers and all I can say is little has changed.  Rivers is expected to give his pledge soon and ideally before the Duke staff leaves the country in August for Team USA duties.  All the signs are pointing to this being done by the time the AAU National roll around where the event would feature Michael GbinijeTyler Adams and of course Rivers.  Adams recent visit to Duke went very well and he has done everything they’ve asked of him to date.  The staff is also pleased with the progress of Gbinije. 

Looking ahead, the AAU Nationals in Orlando will have Michael Gbinije, Rivers, Adams… All likely commits at that time, another hint there minions.  Vegas will be loaded with Shabazz Muhammad, Marshall Plumlee, Alex Murphy, Kaleb Tarczewski and many more.

I’ve pretty much mentioned Duke’s recruiting priorities but again, this list could change and you know the names we’ve mentioned here before which could rise to the top.  The Duke staff will be at all of the major events and there schedule for the latter part of July will become clear as duties with Team USA are worked out.  All in all it’s an exciting time for basketball recruiting and we think you will see why you joined BDN Premium when comparing our coverage in the coming months.  Discuss this article on the premium message board where more tidbits await you including some updates from Andrew on the recruiting trail.  If you are a member having trouble accessing the board, e-mail me at watzonebdp@gmail.com.  Please only e-mail me if you have a problem with the message board at this address. Remember, copy and pasting or sharing this via emails and other premiums boards PM system is a violation of membership agreement and those not honoring that will be banned.  I know moist of you are not a part of that but please recognize that pilfering information is in effect stealing.[/private]

BDN’s informative General Update #44 – The skinny on the recruiting front and more

Kyrie Irving vs Brandon Knight
Kyrie Irving vs Brandon Knight

In a recent poll with our members, our General Update was by far our most popular offering.  Join Blue Devil Nation Premium today and see what the buzz is about.  Our members overwhelmingly stated that Blue Devil Nation Premium was better than other subscription services.  If you’ve been on the fence, it’s time to jump in for our coverage on the AAU trail is about to explode.

Duke has put the full court press on Kyrie Irving of late and they [private] hope that their August camp will be the start to putting the nails in the coffin.  Let me take a second to remind you that all of the information this update  is sensitive and by contract cannot be shared with e-mail groups, other message boards or reprinted in any way.  Irving is not likely to pull the trigger early, but BDN Premium has learned that his Dad and uncle will make the trip as well.

The Blue Devils feel confident that they will close the deal with Harrison Barnes in due time.  Do not look for other teams to get involved any further for in my opinion, Duke is the favorite with Kansas the only other alternative.  Barnes will not participate in any more AAU events after the Peach Jam.

Duke will still look for a sixth player to add to the class and that will be a forward unlike the ones currently on the roster.  Duke is also still highly interested in Ray McCallum.

Duke is still seeking to get involved with Fab Mello, but at this time they are not on his current list.  Mello will receive an invite to the Elite camp.  BDN will attempt to get a Q & A with Mello in the near future.

The Blue Devils are also hoping to close the deal on Quincy Miller soon rather than later.  Miller soared in the rankings after Duke offered.  Of course, anyone who looks at early rankings in the class of 2011, may be disappointed as time goes on for not even the gurus have had that many views of the kids.  In fact, it’s alarming to see how some of the rankings come about and some certainly do a better job of it than others.  Anyhow, Miller is a Duke type of kid and getting a verbal from him by the end of summer would allow Duke to concentrate their efforts on the team.

The Men’s staff is about to hit the road big time.  They will have a high profile at all of the events with Krzyzewski attending LeBron James, Peach Jam and the Vegas tournaments.  I am pretty sure he’ll end up in Orlando if there are enough kids of interest and an early look at the south Florida events shows that they have more talent than in past years.  We are talking of the Showcase and AAU Nationals. Duke Assistant Coach,  Nate James and his wife are expecting a baby in mid July, so he will not attend the Peach Jam nor the Vegas events.

Many of you have asked about Duke possibly filling a lost in 2009.  There is a possibility, but only if certain prospects seek them out.  Duke will likely close out the class as it stands now, but a final move is a possibility.

Our own Andrew Slater will be covering the LeBron James Skills Academy this week and I will be at the Peach Jam later this month.  You can count on coverage from Las Vegas as well.  In short, BDN Premium will continue to show you that this is “the” place for the best basketball recruiting coverage.  Kyle Singler will be attending the James Academy and Coach Krzyzewski, Wojo and Nate will attend this event.  They’ll also take in the Adidas Take Five where Chris Collins will replace James.  Nate will then spend one day at the Reebok event.

Speaking of Nate “Dogg” James, I had a one-on-one interview with him which will go up this weekend.  There will be little rest for the coaches as Krzyzewski, Wojo and Collins will then head to a loaded Peach Jam event in Augusta.

On the football front, Coach Cutcliffe welcomed the incoming freshman class yesterday and they were put through the now infamous running drills.  According to Thaddeus Lewis all the freshman did well and took it, so to speak.  He said that Desmond Scott had been looking good and that he would get some playing time from day one.  When talking of his strength, Thad said that he had the best hands of any back coming out of the backfield.

BDN will continue to cover the football preseason as it has in the past.  IOW, we’ll regularly attend any function made available to us and will update you on the practices leading into the opener with Richmond.  We have long been dedicated to football and hope to expand our coverage with some key additions.  In an effort to put a brighter light on the program, BDN will keep 90% of it’s football information free.

You may have noticed thatt GoDuke has gone to a new cleaner look and that they are more user friendly. BDN has had some changes in the works as well.  We are redoing our front page and will be going to a new message board which is synchronized with the site, meaning you do not need to register for both.  The changes should help streamline your experience.

Also, I will be addressing the survey questions on our message board and we appreciate the responses, complaints and props.  I am happy to announce that members were overwhelmingly happy with the site with almost all who participated saying BDNP was better than other subscription sites which cover recruiting.  We will strive to keep this site ahead of the curve and when I say that, I am mainly talking about information and not so much technology.  Information was by far the one area in the survey which members pointed to time and time again.

Our site should be a good counterpart to GoDuke and free sites like DBR.  We are not in competition with Duke’s official site.  In fact, we support them.  BDN tries to fill the gaps in between and we’ll always come up with new ideas along the way.  That said, I want to thank members for their patience during the past year where I have battled some health issues and the site has found it’s footing in the direction after a sudden move.

Changes will start to appear sooner rather than later.  Jim Sumner will have his first article up next week and we hope to continue to work with writers you have come to know.  BDN will expand the free content in that we plan on bringing you the news that you used to see in newspapers on a daily basis.  We are the new or modern day beat writers in an ever changing media world and will strive be professional in our coverage.

I have put aside another project in an effort to make Blue Devil Nation the best it can be and I look forward to hearing your responses as this takes place.  After all, it is the members and readers who make up the Blue Devil Nation for we are all in this together.

Addendum – Duke has offered Roscoe Smith.  I meant to include this but kind of forgot about it.  Nate James is the lead recruiter for Smith.  Duke has  invited him the their Elite Camp.[/private]