DURHAM — The best player on the 2013-14 Duke team is
Rodney (Hood), Tyler Thornton said Friday, after Dukes first official practice. Its a no-brainer.
That guy, I didnt know he was that good, said Jabari Parker, echoing Thorntons praise of Hood. Being in practice, his jump shot is so pure.
Parker hardly needs an introduction he was the No. 2 overall recruit in the class of 2014. But it has been more than a year since Hood, a sophomore, last played a game he said he cant even remember the last time (that would be a March 13, 2012, first-round NIT loss in Starkville, Miss.). So Hood understands, he says, why people may be overlooking him when they picture this Duke team. But he doesnt expect to fly under the radar for long.
Theyll find out pretty quick, he said with a smile.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski also gave Hood a vote of confidence, making him and Thornton the co-captains. Hood is just the third sophomore captain under Krzyzewski (Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus were for the forgettable 2006-07 season) and first to earn that title without first playing in a game his sophomore season.
Im not surprised about Rodney, Krzyzewski said. Rodney, every day last year he handled that situation unbelievably well and many times was our best player. Being the best player with a blue shirt and no pressure on you, well see now with a white shirt and pressure on you what happens. I think good things will happen.
Krzyzewski sees good things ahead for this team, which will bring a level of athleticism to Cameron Indoor Stadium not seen since the late 1990s and early 2000s. A mix of long, quick players will run up and down the floor, not stopping often to set up a halfcourt offense and pressing intensely on the defensive side of the ball.
Its not your conventional team, like here are your two big guys, your wing, your shooter and your point guard, Krzyzewski said. Its not going to be a team like that. Its going to be a team that has very good versatility.
And its going to be a team that, offensively, revolves around Hood and Parker. After fracturing his foot last July, Parker played at less than full strength his senior season, but he is at full strength now, he said.
Hes starting to feel his athleticism again, Krzyzewski said of Parker. He has a chance to get better. A lot better once he learns how to play defense and understand that he has this freedom of movement where hes not positioned, where he can play all over the floor.
Sophomore Amile Jefferson will definitely start in the frontcourt, Krzyzewski said, adding that he might complement Parker and Hood better than anyone else on the roster. Quinn Cook would probably start, too, Krzyzewski said, noting that Cook is in the best shape of his life and has significantly improved his ball pressure.
As far as the fifth spot, though, Krzyzewski said who knows. Rasheed Sulaimon is a strong candidate, but keeping it up for grabs isnt the worst thing for Duke.
Theres a lot of competition right now, and thats what we want, Sulaimon said. Were very deep.
The Blue Devils conceivably could go deeper than their traditional seven-man rotation with the fullcourt pressure defense and transition offense they plan to employ, that depth can come in handy.
Who wouldnt want to play in a system like that, where they just kind of roll the balls out, and we play, Andre Dawkins said. We basically play pick-up ball, except we play defense.
For the next month, Dawkins and the rest of the Blue Devils will hone their defensive skills against Parker and Hood not an easy task.
Theyre guys that can deflate your confidence, Sulaimon said. You can play perfect defense on them, and they can still make tremendous shots.
When you have guys like that, it brings a different dynamic to your team. We dont have one, we have two of those guys.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley