GREENSBORO — After Duke beat N.C. State in the ACC tournament, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood all sat in a row, fielding questions from the media. Midway through, Krzyzewski was asked if, since Parker has commanded such a national spotlight, Hood has been unfairly stuck in his shadow.
Neither Hood nor Parker reacted. And Krzyzewski, his voice hoarse from coaching two games within 18 hours, gave a fairly standard answer, that both play an important role and just want to win.
Hood, though, had given a more revealing answer a few days earlier in Durham.
“The main thing is just letting the offense run through him,” Hood said. “Me, I’m like a crutch. When they’re starting to load up on him, I’m an option to help him take over games. Down the court, we’re doing a better job of me or him, mostly him, touching the ball every single time down the court because he can create so much for other people and himself.”
Hood’s acceptance of his role has been key for No. 7 Duke – the 2011-12 team never could handle freshman Austin Rivers’ alpha male role on the team – although Hood tends to sell himself short. Parker leads the team in scoring (19.2 points per game for the regular season), but Hood isn’t far behind at 16.5. They combine to make the 10th-highest scoring duo under Krzyzewski (35.7). J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams set the standard, combining to average 45.6 points per game in 2005-06.
Three of those top 10 tandems led Duke to national championships and eight of the nine reached at least the Sweet 16.
When on the floor, Parker takes fewer of Duke’s shots than Redick did in 2005-06 – 31.9 percent compared to 34.6 percent, respectively. Hood takes slightly more than Williams did, 25.3 percent to 24.6. Since 2002-03, the start of statistician Ken Pomeroy’s database, no two players have taken a higher percentage of Duke’s shots while on the floor than Parker and Hood.
And that’s exactly how Krzyzewski planned it. On the first day of practice, Sept. 27, he said the offense would revolve around the dynamic newcomers. When the season opened Nov. 8, Parker and Hood each poured in 22 points, as Duke shot 70.4 percent and beat Davidson, the eventual Southern Conference regular-season champion, 111-77. It wasn’t until the last game of the regular season, a 93-81 win against then-No. 14 North Carolina, that Krzyzewski felt both played sensational together in the same game.
“They’ve both been good together, but they were sensational together,” he said then.
It was hard to imagine in September that Krzyzewski would say that about Parker and Hood for the first time in March. But there’s something to be said about peaking at the right time.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley