Rodney Hood

Portland Trailblazers guard and Meridian alumnus Rodney Hood hands out backpacks Saturday evening at his annual Rodney Hood Hoops Basketball Camp.

When he’s not busy helping Portland reach the Western Conference Finals, Meridian alumnus Rodney Hood enjoys giving back to his hometown and state.

Basketball happens to be a good avenue to do that, as Hood was on-hand Saturday for the fifth-annual Rodney Hood Hoops Basketball Camp in Meridian. The high-level camp offered boys and girls ages 9 to 18 a chance to sharpen their basketball skills and go against some of the best players in the state in their respective age groups.

Hood, a member of the Meridian boys’ 2011 MHSAA Class 6A state championship team, completed his fifth season in the NBA this year, starting with the Cleveland Cavaliers before a February trade to the Portland Trailblazers. In Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Hood hit a game-deciding 3-pointer against Denver in the fourth overtime period, and he also had a playoff career-high of 25 points in Game 6 of that series. He recently re-signed with the Trailblazers on a two-year, $16 million contract.

With his success on the big stage, Hood said giving back to the community and state in which he first honed his basketball skills has always been a desire of his. The camp is free of charge, and more than 300 boys and girls participated Saturday, with the camp making use of the two gymnasiums at Meridian High School, as well as the gyms at Northwest, Magnolia and Carver middle schools, and West Lauderdale High School.

“It gets bigger and better every single year,” Hood said. “I wanted to start it as a back-to-school giveaway type of thing, and it just grew and grew and grew to where now it’s an elite camp, where the best kids from around the state come to Meridian. It’s been so fun — it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year, just having everybody back and seeing some of my old friends and everyone work together and letting kids have fun.”

Jay Barnes

Oak Grove junior Jay Barnes drives toward the basketball Saturday afternoon in the West Lauderdale High School gym, one of the camp's satellite locations.

Junior Jay Barnes, who plays for Oak Grove High School, attended the camp for the second year in a row and said the high level of competition is what brought him back after last year’s camp.

“There are a lot of people just going at each other, back and forth and back and forth, and just getting better,” Barnes said. 

It doesn’t hurt to have Hood’s name attached to the camp, either, Barnes added.

“It gives the camp credibility because he’s in the NBA, so everybody wants to get in his face and showcase their talents in front of him,” Barnes said.

Debreasha Powe, a sophomore who will play for Meridian this winter, said she’s been coming to the camp for several years. Like Barnes, she enjoys the competition.

“It makes you better and more aggressive,” Powe said. “You’re competing every single time you play.”

Debreasha Powe

Meridian sophomore Debreasha Powe scans the court during a game at the camp.

Hood’s brother, Ricky Hood Jr., helps run the camp and said he’s grateful to offer an elite camp for local and state basketball players that might cost several hundred dollars elsewhere.

“It’s huge, and I think it’s something that anyone in our position should do if they could do it,” Ricky Hood Jr. said. “It’s expensive but worth it at the same time. We don’t think about the monetary value of it, we just want to help kids and help our city and state.”

Rodney Hood said any chance to help Mississippi basketball players develop their game is time well spent, especially if it also brings them into Meridian.

“To bring everyone into the city of Meridian means a lot,” Rodney Hood said. “Obviously Jackson is known for basketball, but making everyone come here and get a chance to see the city is great. Meridian means everything to me, so it’s fun.”

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