One on one with Rodney Hood

He battled injury and the usual rookie learning curve before coming on strong at the end of the 2014-2015 NBA season. During that run of strong play, we had a chance to sit down with Rodney Hood to discuss the path to Duke, and ultimately the NBA.

So, what was it like as an NBA Rookie this year?

Rodney Hood: It’s been good. I spent time just trying to get used to it. I’ve been playing good lately, so that’s been good. I dealt with a couple injuries midway through the season but then I got healthy again which was great.

How did you see your game improve this season?

I think I got a lot better this year. I got a lot stronger and mentally I learned a lot. Nutritionally I got better too, right now it’s a good flow going for me offensively, I’ve just continued to be in the gym, working on getting better.

How do you think your time at Duke helped prepare you to be an NBA player?

It did wonders for me as a player, without question. Especially that year that I sat out. I learned a lot sitting out that first year. I learned a lot from Coach K and from Coach Wojo, Chris Collins, Jeff Capel, they all helped me along and got me better both on and off the court. With the professionalism you have to have, it got me off to a good start here in the NBA.

As you were working the decision making process to go pro early—how did the Duke staff help you and your family in that process?

Well it was basically that we knew we wanted to happen pretty much the whole year. With us not winning in the NCAA Tournament, it threw a monkey wrench in the whole season and it kinda made it a little bit harder. I talked with Coach K and with my family and that was the plan the whole time was for me to play one year and then leave. I still love Duke to this day, it was just an opportunity for me to go and play at the highest level.

What was your experience like playing with Jabari for the one season?

I mean it was great. Ever since he stepped on campus, him and I had a great relationship. We used to go in and practice together and we had a lot of responsibility on each other, so we’d help each other. Great things happen and grow over time, and we have a great friendship and we still talk to this day. It was great being one of his teammates. Being in the League now, we basically keep in touch with each other, keep checking on each other and then when he got hurt, I would check on him every couple of days. I just talked with him a few days ago and we’re trying to decide where we’re going to be for the summer and we’re trying to spend some time with each other this summer, on and off the court. The big thing has been keeping each other in high spirits.

Are you linking back up with Duke at all this offseason?

Yeah definitely. Grant Hill started a thing where all the Duke players from the past come back and play with the current Duke players, we did it last year and Jabari and I came. Other guys like Trajan Langdon, Grayson was there, Dahntay Jones was there, just a bunch of guys were there and it’s supposed to be even bigger this year which is great. That’ll happen around August.

Which Duke players have you grown close with during the last few years?

Pretty much all the guys. I had a relationship with Mason Plumlee before the year I sat out. Jabari, Dahntay Jones I got to know him a lot. Then when I see guys on the road, Ryan Kelly, Shavlik Randolph, J.J. Redick, all these guys we play against, we always check on each other and it’s been a good relationship with everybody, a good bond.

Have any of those guys said anything that’s been helpful in your first year transitioning into the NBA?

Yeah most definitely, Mason for sure. He told me to keep working when we played them like a month ago. He told me to keep working, stay healthy, keep playing and keep grinding, it was real good.

What was it like for you seeing some of your former teammates win a National Championship this year?

I was excited, it was great and I felt like I was a part of it because some of the guys I played with last year were a part of those teams and some of those guys when they came on their visits, I was their host, so I kinda felt a part of that. I was just so proud of those guys, they had a great year and they got hot at the right time. It was great to see them do that.

One of your former teammates, Quinn Cook, was recognized for the leadership influence he had on this year’s team—what were your thoughts on him as a leader this year?

Quinn did a great job at leading the team this year, him and Amile Jefferson had everybody’s back and when things got tough this year, I think they really gravitated towards Quinn’s leadership because he had really been through some stuff before. It was good just to see him have a great senior season and for me personally as a leader at Duke, I really tried to lead by example. During the day to day, guys looked to me as the example on the court which I took pride in.

?I remember after the National Championship game this year I was talking with Amile on Facetime and Jahlil was right there with him, so we talked for like 10 minutes, just clowning around on the phone. It was great, i was happy for those guys.

It’s interesting with Quinn that he mentioned that you and him after the Mercer game were in the gym all the time together and how that helped you guys fight through that adversity. How did that help you?

We got in the gym and by that time I hadn’t made the final decision yet, so for Quinn and I it was just a release to be there because we knew even with stuff not going right with the way our season ended, we could work on things in that gym, which was great. We learned from our mistakes for sure.

Final question since our interview session time is about up—do you have any messages to convey to any of your former Duke fans?

Just that I love Duke, I love the Duke fans and it will obviously be a part of me for the rest of my life. I just appreciated all the support we had while I was there.

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