DURHAM, N.C. — As the final seconds ticked away in Chicago from No. 4 Duke’s 94-83 loss to No. 5 Kansas in the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Duke wing Rodney Hood was already angry at himself.
“I hate losing,” Hood said. “We all hate losing. It’s not in our DNA.”
He hardly needed a detailed breakdown of the film to show him that he needed to be more aggressive for this team to be as good as it can be.
But he got that breakdown anyway when he went to talk to his head coach Mike Krzyzewski one-on-one.
“He got on me pretty bad. He said I was lazy — on (game) tape, not that I’m a lazy person, but that I had to be more aggressive,” Hood said. “I couldn’t just wait on the wing. I had to go to the offensive boards and things like that. I really took that challenge to heart and I tried to play hard today.”
That’s an understatement.
Hood got going early in Duke’s 97-64 win over Florida Atlantic, and he had seven points in the first 3:28 of the game.
He would finish with 28 points, a career high. He has missed just four shots in his two games in Cameron Indoor Stadium so far, and he has rebounded two of his own misses for second-chance buckets.
Krzyzewski said that they give Hood what he calls an “action” — not quite a play, but a situation where Hood has the ball in position to make a read offensively. Hood was making the right reads against Florida Atlantic, and he was looking for his own shot more when making those reads.
“During an action, a read occurs, an open low post and you’re on the wing, well, you need to drive that all the time because there’s no help, that type of thing,” Krzyzewski said. “Against Kansas, those reads were there and he wasn’t taking advantage of them.
“What you do is you show him tape and you say, ‘Did you see it in the game?’ He said, ‘I wasn’t looking for it.’ I said, ‘Well, if you don’t look to read, you’re not going to be as good a player.’ That’s part of — again, he didn’t play for a year.”
Freshman phenom Jabari Parker, though, struggled far less against Kansas, nearly carrying Duke to a victory and impressing a nation of college basketball fans in the process.
But what they didn’t get to see is how magical it is when he and Hood work together and play off of each other the way they’ve shown they can.
Parker missed his first two shots and made his third on what looked like a designed play to get him a three-pointer (it worked). On Duke’s next possession, he missed both his free throw attempts and committed a frustration foul on the rebound.
He went out after that, but after he came back in, he made six of his final ten shots. And he kept looking to get the ball to Hood and let him work, since Hood was sizzling.
“I don’t look for points. I don’t look for individual goals,” Parker said.
Hood, sitting next to him, scoffed out loud and shook his head at his teammate as if to say, “Yeah, okay.” He shook his head, smiled sardonically and gave Parker a sly look.
Parker grinned back. “Like I said to Rodney,” he said, looking pointedly at Hood, “if you’re hot, I’m going to get you – we’re going to get you going.”
Playful back-and-forth aside, Krzyzewski sided with his star freshman on this one.
“(Hood) was very, very good. You could almost see Jabari wanting him to do that,” Krzyzewski said. “I thought Jabari wasn’t looking for his stuff early and just once he saw Rodney, he wanted Rodney to get off, and he did.”
And if anyone questioned why Hood was named a team captain along with seniors Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston, they shouldn’t anymore.
Even though he hasn’t been with the Blue Devils long — he sat out last year as a transfer, remember — he understands his teammates very well and what they need to hear.
Duke shooting guard Andre Dawkins has had a tough couple of years after the death of his sister in a car accident, and he took last year off from basketball to finally deal with that loss. And so naturally, it seemed like a feel-good moment when Dawkins made his first three-pointer (he’d make four more) after being hindered by a back injury in the preseason as the Cameron Crazies chanted “Dre All Day!”
But Hood is not there to coddle Dawkins, as one of the leaders on the team. And he’s not. He was happy for his teammate, of course, but he said that’s what he expects out of Dawkins.
“We expect that from Dre. Yesterday in practice, he did the same thing,” Hood said. “He was lighting it up. That’s what he does. That’s why he’s here. That’s why he’s Dre. He can knock down shots from anywhere. From here on out, we expect that from him.”
And Dawkins has gotten that message, too. He’s had a bit of a streaky career at Duke, for reasons that we now understand a lot better, but he wants to find that consistency too. So he didn’t bask in the adoration from the crowd as he drained his first three-pointer in a real game since March 2012.
“It felt good, but I wasn’t really — I was thinking about the next play,” Dawkins said. “I hit a shot and we’ve got to get a stop, got to play defense. It feels good to hit shots and hear the fans, but at the same time, I’m focused on what’s going on on the court.”
It’s certainly a nice luxury for a loaded Duke team to have, a spot-up shooter off the bench that is having to fight and scrap in practice every day for minutes.
“Andre, he got those two quick three’s. All of a sudden, say you’re in a game and you’re up by five and boom, he hits one and you get a steal and he hits one again, a team looks up there and it’s double digits, that type of thing. He’s a good weapon to have,” Krzyzewski said. “I would hope he does that every game. That would be a heck of a thing. He’s capable of doing it in a game.”