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Jon Hood focusing on having fun during final season of eligibility in five-year UK career


If there is an expert on the “John Calipari Era” at UK, it is likely senior guard Jon Hood.

 

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Hood is the only player to suit up for each of Calipari’s five UK teams.

 

In five years at UK, Hood has teamed up with 43 different players. He has already played alongside 17 NBA draft picks, including 13 first-rounders.

 

While Hood did not play during the 2011-12 championship season due to a knee injury, his teams have reached two Final Fours and three Elite Eights.

 

“I’m the dribble-drive expert, I guess,” Hood said in a one-on-one interview with KyForward in September. “I have more know-how, more knowledge about it than anybody else.”

 

Jon Hood appeared in 23 games as a redshirt junior. (File photo by Jon Hale)

Jon Hood appeared in 23 games as a redshirt junior. (File photo by Jon Hale)

While Hood has enjoyed a first-hand look at each of Calipari’s UK teams, playing alongside so many future NBA stars has decreased his chances for significant minutes.

 

Hood’s number of career field goals (28) is actually less than his number of teammates (42). He has scored 80 points in 73 career games, while shooting 28.9 percent from the field.

 

After graduating in the spring, Hood had the option to use the NCAA’s graduate student transfer rule to find immediate playing time elsewhere. Instead, he opted to return to UK to complete his eligibility, even knowing the Cats would welcome six new McDonald’s All-Americans to the roster.

 

“I thought this was the best position for me to continue playing ball after college,” he said. “I thought it’d be fun. It will be, so I’m ready for it.”

 

Hood’s status as the old man on the roster has already earned him friendly teasing from his teammates.

 

“He’s been here for, like, seven years it seems like,” said freshman point guard Dominique Hawkins, who won Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball title after leading Madison Central to the state championship.

 

Hood has heard the nicknames. At least one teammate refers to him as “Grandpa Jon.”

 

Still, he knows his long tenure with the program has given him unique opportunities.

 

Hood knows a thing or two about playing with future NBA stars—he’s played with five top-five draft picks—but even he is impressed by the newest crop of UK freshmen.

 

“It’s just back to the way we were when I was a freshman,” he said. “We had 13 guys, 13 scholarship guys. We have 13 scholarship guys again this year, and we’ve got some guys that can play.”

 

A quick glance at the roster reveals the difficult task Hood faces to find playing time as a senior.

 

He has never averaged more than 6.3 minutes per game in his career, and this team is, at least on paper, Calipari’s deepest yet.

 

Still, Hood has at least one skill that has impressed his teammates this summer.

 

“He hasn’t missed a shot since I’ve been here,” said freshman guard Aaron Harrison.

 

Freshman guard James Young has been pointed to by many as the best shooter on the team, but when asked if he was the Cats’ best three-point threat Young offered a telling response:

 

“Besides Hood, yeah, probably.”

 

Hood posted career highs in field-goal percentage (50.0) and three-point percentage (40.0) last season as a junior.

 

Part of Hood’s motivation to return to UK for his final year of eligibility was the chance to play on a championship team after he had to watch the 2012 run from the sideline.

 

He’s not ready to move on to life after basketball yet and even wants to continue his career at the professional level somewhere.

 

His goals for this season are much simpler though.

 

“I just want to have fun,” he said. “I can pretty much promise you that I will have fun with just whatever.”

 

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In the weeks leading up to the 2013 UK men’s basketball media day KyForward is previewing the season with a series of stories about the Cats resulting from interviews with players and head coach John Calipari from September. As they publish, you can see all the stories in the series here.


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