Ricky Hood said his son always wanted to complete his degree.
A Meridian native, Rodney Hood spent three seasons playing Division I basketball before the opportunity to reach the next level presented itself, and the 6-foot-8 guard/forward was selected by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, leaving him just a few credits shy of becoming a college graduate.
Six years later, now a member of the Portland Trailblazers’ starting lineup, Rodney found himself with plenty of down time in the spring as he was rehabbing from a torn achilles suffered last December, and the NBA was on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. He decided to re-enroll at Duke — where he spent his final two collegiate seasons after transferring from Mississippi State — amid thoughts of his life after the NBA and on the advice of his wife, Richa, Rodney told ESPN reporter Eric Woodyard earlier this month.
“He was always intent on finishing his degree,” Ricky said. “The injury and COVID-19 gave him the opportunity to really focus on trying to get all that taken care of.”
Based in Portland, Oregon, Rodney is taking online classes to finish his major in social work. Since he took mainly elective classes while at MSU and Duke, Ricky said his son is involved in more extensive research classes with papers and presentations.
“It took him a little time to get back familiar with it, but it’s all online, and the professionals at Duke have been really good,” he said. “It’s been a really good experience for him from what he’s telling me, because they’re really interested in him learning the information, and he wants to get it.”
Former Meridian High School boys basketball head coach Randy Bolden, who led the Wildcats when Rodney was on the team, said he figured his former standout would return to school and concentrate on social work as he’s always been determined and wanted to support others.
“Rodney is the type of kid who always looked to help people, and he comes from an educated family, so it’s not surprising,” Bolden said. “Rodney’s always been the guy who, when he puts his mind to something, he’s been able to accomplish it. There’s no telling what he has in store and what he’s going to do with that degree.”
Ricky said Rodney wants to coach at the college level when his NBA career concludes, but having a degree will be monumental for whatever he does after his playing days are over.
“It’s really helping him prepare for his future once basketball stops, because it will stop for him just like it does for everybody else,” he said. “So he needs to have that.”
For Bolden, knowing his former player is working toward graduating is more satisfying than watching him play at basketball’s highest level.
I’m more proud to see him get that degree because that’s going to carry him through his life,” he said. “I’m proud to see him play in the NBA, but I’m even more proud to see him get his college degree.”