Back when the Cleveland Cavaliers were slated to select ninth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, I had settled on Rodney Hood as my primary target. The work that Hood put in this past season, as a 6-8 SG/SF from Duke University, was largely overshadowed by the star of Jabari Parker. For those who were paying attention, however, it was difficult to miss the NBA-ready numbers he hung on the board, highlighted by 16 points per night on over 40 percent from three and 80 percent from the line.
This past weekend, I caught with Hood while he trained at IMG Academy in Florida in preparation for the draft. We talked about playing for Coach K, the bond he developed with Parker as well as which NBA players he specifically studies to improve his game. But my favorite part of our conversation was when he mentioned what he hopes his journey to the NBA will mean for kids from his home state of Mississippi.
That excerpt is below (via SLAMonline.com).
SLAM: Your home state of Mississippi has produced NBA players like Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Travis Outlaw and others. Now you’re next up. What did it mean to see those guys find success in the League growing up?
RH: Having those guys to look up to meant a lot. I remember watching Monta when he was in high school. Same with Travis Outlaw and Mo Williams. Watching all of those guys growing up, it gives you hope. And now we have a new wave of guys from Mississippi like myself, LaQuinton Ross who played at Ohio State and Johnny O’Bryant of LSU. That success keeps giving the kids in Mississippi someone to look up to and a reason for hope. And that’s really the biggest thing, being able to have hope and positivity throughout our state. There are things kids are faced with that are negative growing up in Mississippi, a lot of kids in poverty. So to grow up and see all of these different guys making it, it gave me hope and that’s what I want to give the kids who watch me. Just like those guys did for us.