While Darren Hood's name might be one of the first that pops up when a list of prospects in the Real Deal on the Hill are reeled off, he hopes to make it one of the ones by the time it ends.
Hood, a 6-5, 205-pound forward from Class AA Bigelow, is one of the Natural State's best junior prospects and will play in the prestigious event this weekend with the Arkansas Hawks before a host of major college basketball coaches.
"It is going to be a big tournament," Hood said. "I can't wait for it to get started. It's fun because the competition is tougher and makes me a better player," Hood said. "You get to meet new people, check out their games and that makes you want to work even harder."
Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Arizona, DePaul, Arizona State, Wichita State and Ole Miss have been sending mail, but Hood hopes a good performance will grab even more recruiting attention.
"I know there are going to be a lot of great teams and a lot of great players and if you can get something done against all the great talent that is going to be here, well, those coaches are going to see you do that and want to get involved," Hood said. "I'm going to go to work and play my best, but do it within the team concept."
Hood averaged 18 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists this past season for a Bigelow squad that went 32-4 and lost in the Class AA state championship game to Buffalo Island Central.
"As soon as they were crossing halfcourt, they were shooting it and making it," Hood said. "It's hard to stop that. But it was a pretty good year going 32-4. We accomplished most of our goals, including making it to state for the first time and that was pretty big for our school." We only lost to one AA team the whole season and that was the last game."
Hood, whose team lost to Vilonia twice and a lone time to Pottsville, was happy he displayed more of his all-around game as a junior after a sophomore campaign when he averaged 19.5 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per contest.
"I rebounded better than last year and looked for my teammates more," Hood said. "My scoring average was down from a year ago, but that was not something I was worried about. I was just happy to improve in my rebounds and assists and becoming a more complete player."
He joins a Hawks team this summer that has a plethora of great guards as well as 6-8 Springdale sophomore Michael Sanchez and 6-11 Little Rock product Jonathon Uchada, a 2006 prospect who will go to Hargrave Military Academy next season.
That means Hood won't be the biggest guy on the court as he usually is.
"It is kind of nice to now have to be down low all the time," Hood said. "I don't mind being down low, but it allows me to be more of a wing."
Hood thinks his game will benefit once from playing with Sanchez, who had been offered a scholarship by Arkansas before he even played his first high school game.
"He's really a great player and can do so many things well," Hood said. "I think we have a great team and he's a big, big part of that. I think we can meet the challenge this weekend."
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