By: LARRY VAUGHT
At times it might have appeared junior Jon Hood was a big tentative in last week’s Blue-White Game. Considering he was coming back off knee surgery that forced him to miss all of Kentucky’s national championship season, that seemed easy to understand.
However, Hood explained there was a different in patience and hesitation after he scored 18 points in that intrasquad scrimmage.
“That is what it was. It is patience. Coach (John Calipari) told me to be patient. Other guys have told me. Other coaches on the staff have told me to be patient. I played well. But it was just Blue-White scrimmage. Don’t forget that,” said Hood.
Still, teammates were happy with what he did and the thought of him adding more depth to this year’s team.
“I didn’t realize he had 18 points. That is good for him,” freshman Willie Cauley-Stein said. “He has kind of been struggling in practice with his shot, not really his shot but his mindset about his shot. We all know he can shoot the ball. That’s why he is here. In practice he kind of lets his mind go. But that’s good (for him to get 18 points). That’s real good for him that he was scoring a lot.”
But scoring is not the primary thing on Hood’s goal as the forward tries to work his way into the playing rotation after last year’s redshirt season.
“It is hard to learn patience. It’s one of those things where you have to gain it and just one day sit down and say this is the way I am going to play. I was able to do that here in practice and it carried over to the game,” Hood said. “It feels really good to be playing again, especially when your team in the Blue-White scrimmage wins and you are winning from the beginning to end. That’s a lot of fun, but at the same time it is just a scrimmage. Here in about a week we are going to be sick of playing ourselves and need somebody else to play.”
That actually comes Thursday night in Rupp Arena when UK plays the first of two exhibition games by hosting Northwood.
“Whatever coach Cal needs me to do, I am going to try and do that. I will not be begging for playing time. I know since I have been here three years, I understand that it is ‘you get what you deserve.’ That is in basketball and in life; if you put in the work at basketball then you will get time. That is something I am ready for and I think I have put in enough time,” Hood said.
“Everybody is so much better than they were last year and the new guys are obviously amazing. (They’re) the number one recruiting class again for a reason. Sometimes in pick-up we look like the Atlanta Hawks playing in the ‘Highlight Factory’. It is just fun to watch.”
Yet Hood knows there is a long journey ahead for him and his most talented teammates before NCAA Tournament play starts in March.
“We know we are an October team right now. It’s still October. It’s early. We have a long way to go like he (Calipari) says. We are pretty good for where we are right now,” Hood said. “For being together for about two weeks in real practices, day to day, not the one hour deals. We have made big strides, but we have a long way to go.
“I really think the team has come a long way quicker than I thought. For the freshmen, four months ago they were in AAU playing and eating hot dogs before games and just worrying about themselves. We have a bunch of good guys that are worried about other people more than themselves and that takes a lot to learn and that’s asking a lot of young guys, especially early. Everybody obviously has a long way to go with that. Trust is the main thing. But we will gain it and be okay by March.”
Hood knows some will be way too quick to compare Calipari’s fourth team, which lost its top six players from last year, to the national championship team.
“It’s that type of thing where what have you done for me lately. Realistically, we have not done anything,” Hood said. “We just played a Blue-White scrimmage. That is about it. The team last year won a national championship. I have a big, fat ring that weighs my hand down. To compare us right now to that team that finished last year is unfair. You have to let us get there.
“We are really close together and that is one thing you can expect. That is probably the main thing you can expect. It is fun to watch in pick-up and in practice a lot of people get dunked on and a lot of blocked shots. We have a lot of speed so we are going to be fun to watch.”