When Rodney Hood told those attending his introductory news conference he wanted to become a prime-time defender, new Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder noticed.
“My goal is to become one of the best defensive players in the league someday,” Hood said Friday.
Smiling, Snyder replied, “I’m going to remember, Rodney, that you said you were going to play defense.”
Hood, of course, is just one reason the Jazz feel so optimistic about the outcome of Thursday night’s NBA draft in Brooklyn.
The Jazz took Dante Exum with the No. 5 pick before gleefully watching Hood slide to them at No. 23. Most pre-draft predictions had him in the 16-20 range.
A 6-foot-8 wing player from Duke, Hood was the Blue Devils’ captain last season — just one year after transferring from Mississippi State.
Snyder also attended Duke and is a former assistant to legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Prior to the draft, he talked with a number of people in the Blue Devil program about Hood.
“They think really highly of him,” Snyder said. “They said, ‘This is a guy you want to be around every day.’ Since we’re going to be around each other every day, that’s good.”
Asked if the shared connection to their school influenced the Jazz’s decision to draft Hood, Snyder said, “It’s not the fact it’s a Duke player. It’s this Duke player.”
Hood is from Meridan, Miss., where he was the state’s high school player of the year in 2010-11.
As a freshman at Mississippi State, Hood started 29 of 33 games. He averaged 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds, including 16 and six in a game against Utah State.
When Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury retired at the end of the season, however, Hood transferred.
“It took awhile to adjust,” he said. “... You go from a place where you hope to win to a place where you expect to win.”
Hood sat out a year to meet NCAA transfers requirements and, last season, he averaged 16.1 points and shot 42 precent from the 3-point line.
“I’m very excited to be here and be part of the Jazz family,” said Hood, who had difficulty sleeping Thursday night over the anticipation of coming to Utah for the first day his professional career.
Asked for any first impressions of his new home, Hood said, “It’s a little bit different than Mississippi. We don’t have a lot of mountains there.”
On the court, Hood believes he will prosper in the NBA.
“The game is going to open up for me,” he said. “... Just the spacing will help me a lot.”
Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey agrees: “He has great size ... and can shoot the ball. He’s also a very good pick-and-roll player. He didn’t get the volume that some of the other prospects did. But the possessions he got, he performed. He was highly efficient.”
A closer look
Rodney Hood’s statistics from Mississippi State and Duke:
Year G FG% 3% FT% Reb Ast Pts
2011-12 32 .443 .364 .659 4.8 2.0 10.3
2012-13 35 .464 .420 .807 3.9 2.1 16.1