Jon Hood, right, and Brian Long celebrate after UK's championship in April.
(Photo by Jon Hale)
The number of Wildcats to play for John Calipari will reach 32 when his newest team takes the court this season.
Just one of those 32 players has been on each of Calipari’s four UK teams: redshirt junior guard Jon Hood
You would have to forgive Hood if he’s lost track of a few teammates along the way.
“I still know everybody by name,” he said with a laugh in a preseason interview with KyForward. “I can still name them off.”
Hood was one of two Billy Gillispie recruits kept by Calipari when he was left Memphis for UK in 2009.
He arrived on campus with the likes of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. Those three players have combined for 5,185 points, 2,307 rebounds and 1,765 assists in two NBA seasons.
Each of Hood’s three UK teams have reached at least the Elite Eight, but the 2012 national championship was bittersweet for Hood.
He missed the entire season with a torn ACL.
“Last year was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a basketball player,” Hood said. “That stuff was ridiculous, just going through it all. I can’t emphasize enough that rehab was the hardest thing I’ve had to do.”
Being in the locker room as his teammates brought home a championship has motivated Hood to make the most of his chance to play again.
“It was so much fun,” he said. “We’re ready. I want to get back just because it was fun.”
How a healthy Hood would have fit into the 2012 championship team is uncertain, but he was sure he had worked his way into more playing time before his injury.
Now he will complete for playing time off the bench with UK’s other upperclassmen guards: junior Jarrod Polson and senior Twany Beckham.
“We’re counting on (that),” Calipari said in a preseason roundtable with local media. “I’d like to know one of them (could help).”
“Jon’s gotten better,” Calipari added. “He’s coming off that knee. He was with the guards the other day, and he did fine.”
Hood’s knee is back to 100 percent. He even thinks he has passed the mental hurdle of thinking about the injury while playing.
“I don’t think about it at all, but I’m not making any 15-yard out routes,” he said, referencing football players who have come back from similar injuries.
Hood has totaled 46 points and 34 rebounds in his UK career. His last points came on Feb. 5, 2011. His last game came on March 27, 2011.
That long layoff since his last action has Hood thankful for his new opportunity and not worried too much about how he fits into the newest Calipari team.
“I’m just ready to play basketball,” he said. “I don’t care about roles right now. I know that’s probably bad, but I just want to play. I just want to get there.”
He knows the playing time question will work itself out.
“I’ve worked hard, and I’ve had fun,” he said. “If you do that as a basketball player and you work as hard as you can and you have fun doing it, you’re going to be fine. Coach Cal is going to play who deserves to play.”
In the two weeks before Big Blue Madness, KyForward sports editor Jon Hale will be previewing the 2012-13 UK men’s basketball series with a profile of each of the 12 Wildcats as well as other features to get you ready for the team’s attempt to repeat as National Champions. Previous profiles in the series have focused on Willie Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin, Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow, Brian Long, Sam Malone and Kyle Wiltjer. On the KyForward UK Sports Tumblr you can read more from the one-on-one interview with Jon Hood. Tomorrow’s profile looks at Jarrod Polson.