The 2010-11 season has been filled with much success for Meridian (Miss.) senior Rodney Hood. But through it all, the Class of 2011 Mississippi State signee has also been eying his future.
This past year, Hood led his team to the Class 6A state crown and was also tabbed as the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year. He played in a national all-star game and earned five-star status by Rivals.com after averaging 24.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.1 steals a game.
But Hood has not rested on his past accomplishments and has been working harder than ever.
"I will be at Mississippi State on June 1st and it's all gone by pretty fast," said the 6-foot-7 Hood. "I am enjoying my last few days of high school but at the same time, I am preparing for the physical play of the college level.
"I have a trainer that I've been working with since the end of our season and it is really helping with my game. I've put on 15 pounds since the season ended and I am just over 200 pounds now. I am just trying to do whatever i can to be a better player."
During his prep career, Hood faced elite competition at Meridian as well as the AAU circuit. But he understands the level of play is about to take another big step.
"We played in a lot of national tournaments at Meridian and faced some of the best teams in the nation," said Hood. "And then you face a lot of talent in AAU ball. It does prepare you some but college is two steps up from that. Instead of playing people your own age, you are now playing against older guys and sometimes grown me. It is just a big gap between high school, AAU and college basketball."
When Hood inked with head coach Rick Stansbury and the MSU staff back in the fall, Bulldog fans instantly penciled Hood into the starting lineup and the heir apparent to former MSU wing player Ravern Johnson. Hood noted he's heard those same thoughts but isn't about to take anything for granted.
"Yea, I hear those things," said Hood. "But at the same time, I know Coach Stansbury makes everyone earn their spot. Sure, Ravern is gone and he played about 35 minutes. But nothing is given to me and I have to work hard if I want to play next year, much less get a starting job. But even with all the fans expecting big things, there is no pressure on me. At the end of the day it is basketball and something I love doing."
Hood is part of a recruiting class that was recently ranked 11th nationally by Rivals.com. For the most part, Hood is familiar with his fellow classmates, which include Deville Smith, D.J. Gardner, Roquez Johnson and most recently, Shawn Long.
"We have a lot of talent," said Hood. "I've seen D.J., Deville and Roquez play and I know what they can do. The only one I haven't seen play is Shawn but I hear good things about him. Our goal is to win the SEC championship next year and just add to the things that Dee (Bost), Sid (Renardo Sidney) and (Arnett) Moultrie are doing. We just want to come in and add to them with our help."
First and foremost, added Hood, is building that team chemistry that was lacking the past couple of seasons in Starkville. Talented as the team will be, eliminating those recent off-the-court issues is top priority.
"I went to Mississippi State a good bit after our season," said Hood. "I could sense that chemistry building and everyone was getting along. I think everyone learned a good lesson from what happened last year and realize how the off-the-court stuff affects what happens on the court.
"I know me and Deville are already best friends. We've been on the same AAU team for three years and we are used to winning state title. We just want to help the team run smoothly and go from there."