Make no mistake, it will likely be Jabari Parker getting all of the headlines in Durham, North Carolina this winter.
After all, he’s one of the most talented freshmen in the nation and could conceivably challenge Andrew Wiggins for the top spot in the NBA Draft next June. However, it may not be Parker, but another newcomer, who could be the key to Duke‘s success this season. That newcomer is Rodney Hood, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Mississippi State.
Mike Krzyzewski does not accept many transfers. In fact, in his entire tenure at Duke, he’s only taken on four newcomers via that route, including guys like Roshown McCleod, Dahntay Jones and most recently Seth Curry. All three have proven that when it comes to transfers, Coach K has a certain eye for talent.
After all, McCleod and Jones were each First Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selections, and Curry is getting a shot at the NBA as we speak.
As a freshman, Hood proved to be a pretty darned good player right out of the gates. He averaged 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game on his way to being named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team, and started in 29 of 32 games in which he appeared.
He’s got prototypical small forward size, weighing in at 215 pounds to go along with his ample height, and he has the ability to knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. That’s obviously a key to playing in Coach K’s system, as he loves having players with the ability to stretch the floor at every position.
In his one season at Mississippi State, he knocked down 36.4 percent of his trays, a very solid number considering he was a freshman and that he launched 129 attempts throughout the year.
Hood was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Mississippi in high school, and the Blue Devils’ coaching staff can feel like they truly dodged a bullet this offseason when Hood suffered an Achilles injury while trying out for the USA team to compete in the World University Games.
Fortunately for both Hood and Duke, he only suffered a strain and not a tear as was originally feared, meaning he will be ready to take the court alongside Parker, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon as one of the team’s go-to players.
Sure, Duke lost the likes of Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Curry from last year’s squad, but as with all elite programs, they will simply reload rather than rebuild.
And considering Hood’s experience competing at the NCAA Division I level along with having already notched a season’s worth of practices in Coach K’s system, he really does have just as much of a chance a Parker, if not more, to be the most important new piece if Duke wants to make a run at another Final Four.