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By KEITH TAYLOR, firstname.lastname@example.org
Now that he’s a veteran with a community and leadership development degree in hand, Jon Hood feels no different than his previous four seasons at Kentucky under coach John Calipari.
“It feels the same as it was,” Hood said. “I’m just the older guy, that’s all.”
Hood, a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball who received a medical redshirt after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament prior to the start of his junior season during the Wildcats’ national championship run two years ago, is one of two seniors on a team stocked with freshmen and a pair of experienced sophomores eager to make run at an NCAA title. Rumored as a potential transfer last spring, Hood had no plans of leaving the program and remains on scholarship.
“I knew I was staying and I knew there was going to be a scholarship for me,” he said.
In his three seasons on the court, Hood has scored 80 points, including 34 of those last season. In his return from knee surgery, Hood connected on six 3-pointers on 15 attempts. Despite the lack of numbers, Hood has no regrets on his decision to attend Kentucky, even though he had offers from Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia.
“I don’t have any regrets at all,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. It’s been the best four and a half years of my life.”
Hood has thorough knowledge of Calipari’s system and doesn’t have a preference when it comes to his role on the team.
“It (the role) is whatever coach wants it to be,” he said. “I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself somewhere. … Whatever he wants me to do, I’m not one of those guys where I have to play two-guard or I’m not going to play. I’ll do whatever he wants me to do, whatever that means. however much playing time that gives me, then that’s (how much) playing time I will get. I’m not worried about (playing time) right now. I’m worried about being the best version of Jon Hood as a basketball player I can be, and if I do that, I won’t have any regrets at all.”
Known as an outside shooter, Hood improved his shooting in preparation for the upcoming season. He not only shot 3s, but also focused on his form inside the arc.
“I shot a lot,” he said. “I made a bunch of shots. I just got into the gym and worked. I played with better competition, got into the weight room, basically the same stuff everybody does (during the summer break). I went through summer workouts here (in Lexington) and then when I was at home (in Hopkinsville), I played with a bunch of college guys down there. I worked on everything.
“You don’t walk into a gym and just focus on 3-point shooting. I shoot the ball really well from 3, and I shoot the ball really well from 15 feet. I just need to work on being a better basketball player. There are areas I can work on and it just depends on what coach wants it to be.”
Hood added that he “knows what to expect” on the court and behind the scenes and hopes the experience will lead to more playing time.
“Alex (Poythress) and Willie (Cauley-Stein) will tell you the same thing,” he said. “One year will give you all the experience that you need. It’s basketball, and it’s not baseball or football, where you see the same guys forever. Most of these guys in the Southeastern Conference are spending two or three years in the league and then taking off. With our guys, it’s one year and then you’re out. Experience isn’t really as much of a factor in basketball. You understand what it is, how to move without the ball, the right way to work out and stuff like that. It’s the same as always.”
He also plans on becoming more of a leader both vocally and by example. “I’ve got to be able to tell guys how it is and how it’s got to be for us to win,” he said.