CHICAGO — Among 2014 NBA Draft prospects, Rodney Hood has the unique experience of being one of the few early entrants who transferred schools and had a redshirt year.
After Hood spent his freshman season at Mississippi State under former head coach Rick Stansbury in 2011-12, the native of Meridian, Mississippi opted to transfer to Duke and sit out a season before having a solid sophomore campaign in the ACC in 2013-14.
Most early entrants in the NBA Draft aren’t likely to transfer or take a redshirt year — required by NCAA rules for transfer students that don’t get granted a waiver — like Hood did, but the lefty wing told NBCSports.com that transferring to Duke and sitting out a season before 2013-14 was the right move for him.
“The year I sat out was great for me. A lot of people back home say, ‘why did you do that? You could have been a star at State,’ but I wanted more for myself and sitting out gave me a chance to learn a lot from the seniors we had,” Hood said to NBCSports.com. “I learned a lot and got a lot stronger, stayed in the gym and it carried over to the next season because I think I had a really good season.”
Hood was good enough to earn 2012 All-SEC Freshman Team honors in his one and only season at Mississippi State, but the 6-foot-8 wing’s game took another leap after sitting out a year at Duke. Hood averaged 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and two assists per game for the Bulldogs, but saw his scoring average rise to 16.1 points per game at Duke last season while also tallying 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Shooting percentages also skyrocketed for Hood at Duke. As a freshman, Rodney shot 44 percent from the field, 36 percent from the three-point line and 65 percent from the free-throw line. At Duke, those numbers increased to 46 percent from the field, 42 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line. The growth of Hood’s offensive game has put him in position to be a potential lottery pick in this year’s draft.
“My freshman year I was more of just a mid-range shooter. In the year off I really extended my range to the three-point line and I’ve really extended it now,” Hood said. “Mentally, it was tough. Just sitting out, knowing that you could be playing. But it was the right plan for me and I feel good about it.”
Also factoring into Hood’s improvement as a player was the demanding nature of the Duke coaching staff. Hood specifically cited former Duke assistant coach and new Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski as a major factor in his development.
“Coach Wojo is my guy. He coaches like he used to play back in the day. Fiery, passionate and whoever gets a chance to play for him at Marquette is going to have a great time because he loves the game and he knows the game,” Hood said.
After transferring into the program, Hood recalled when Wojo went off on him in a workout for going at his own pace. The experience helped show Hood how to handle things when going through practice.
“I had my first encounter [with Wojciechowski] the year I was sitting out,” Hood said. “The first workout when we had a game — the first game — and I came out there and I was shooting shots and kind of at my own pace and he slammed the ball down and went, ‘Hood! What the blank are you doing?’ and just went off and we’ve had a great relationship ever since then.”
Also receiving credit from Hood was Coach K’s style of play with Duke’s wings. The freedom that the Blue Devil offense gives talented wing players like Hood gives those wings a chance to flourish.
“Coach doesn’t put wing players in a box — and I consider Jabari a wing too. He allows me to post up, allows you to come off ball screens. If you can play, you can play; and that’s a reason I went to Duke,” Hood said.
Playing at Duke under an intense coaching staff in a league like the ACC has helped prepare Hood for the NBA Draft process as he goes through workouts and tries to answer some questions about his game.
“When I first got out there there was a lot of jitters. Now the jitters are gone once you get going and it’s great,” Hood said. “This is everybody’s [dream] journey and I’m fulfilling it now.”
Scott Phillips is a regular contributor to CollegeBasketballTalk at NBCSports.com. Follow him on twitter @phillipshoops.