Meridian made: An inside glimpse of Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood ahead of NBA trade deadline
It’s Saturday night in San Antonio.
The NBA trade deadline is less than 120 hours away.
Rodney Hood calmly gets dressed in the visitors locker room at AT&T Center after returning from a six-game absence to help the Utah Jazz rack up their fifth straight win against the Spurs.
Hood is averaging a career-best 16.8 points.
Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood poses with his two-year-old son, Rodney Jr. | Courtesy Vicky Hood
His son, Rodney Jr., just turned 2 last month.
His wife, Richa, expects the twins, Rich and Riley, to arrive as early as April.
The Hood family is comfortable in Salt Lake City, with his brother, Ricky Jr., and sister-in-law not too far away in town with their two boys as well.
For most 25-year-olds, this sounds like the perfect life as an NBA player with millions of dollars in his bank account, right?
But at any moment, his life could change as he’s reportedly on the trading block with the deadline set for Thursday at 1 p.m. MST. He could possibly end up in Oklahoma City, Detroit, Chicago or even San Antonio, but nothing is set in stone.
That uncertainty would freak out the average person his age, but Hood is different.
“It’s easy for me. I think it’s people around me that get frustrated, but I know I’m a pro and the smoke will clear one day,” Hood said. “That’s how I keep a level head and I know I’m doing a good job. I’ve just got to continue to stay focused on my craft and everything will take care of itself.”
That composure and poise in Hood’s answers to the trade speculation might seem staged to some, but a trip to Hood’s hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, will tell you all you need to know.
Star rapper Big K.R.I.T. and former NBA veteran Derrick McKey are other notable figures from the area, but everyone knows Hood.
Rodney Hood starred at Meridian High School in Meridian, Mississippi. He led the Wildcats to a Class 6-A Championship in 2011. | Paula Merritt, The Meridian Star
From the owner of The Rib Shack, Ronnie Shack, to members of the top-ranked Meridian High School basketball team to kids in the community.
Everyone has their own unique tale about Hood.
The trade talks, phone slapping incident or any talks of injury or inconsistency are the furthest thing from their minds.
“This where Rodney used to eat, him and his daddy,” Shack said at his restaurant.
“It definitely motivates you when you see somebody make it out of your city,” added Miles Miller, a 17-year-old Meridian High School guard. “Especially in a city like Meridian, where everybody thinks it’s hard to get out but when you see somebody that’s just like you make it out of the city, it makes you feel like you can, too.”
Hood is also accessible during the offseason for his annual “Welcome to Our Hood Basketball Camp,” while giving back regularly to the community.
His former high school coach, Randy Bolden — now at Jones County Junior College — is even coordinating a jersey retirement celebration with the current Meridian coach, Ron Norman.
Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (left) poses with his former high school coach, Randy Bolden (right) after winning a national award as a senior at Meridian High School. | Courtesy Randy Bolden
“Truthfully, with him coming out it’s been a blessing and almost a curse because every kid thinks they’re the next Rodney Hood,” Norman said. “Which makes it great because even though this was a football town, Rodney made it fashionable to be a basketball player and to play basketball on a high level.”
But the Boys & Girls Club of East Mississippi in Meridian is where he spent most of his time. His father, Ricky Sr., continues to manage the 20,000-square-foot residence as the chief executive officer, where over 400 kids, ages 5-18, gather from 3:30-8:30 p.m. for a plethora of club programs, food, activities and services throughout the week.
“Mr. Hood” has worked at the site for three decades and knows the majority of the children and their parents on a first-name basis.
His son, Rodney, created most of his notable childhood memories in the building where his sister, Whitney, and first cousin, Stephanie Mosley, are teen directors. He grew up with head cook Marvin Harris and unit director Craig Gordon. His uncle, Larry Carter, has also been driving the club’s bus for 20 years.
That foundation and structure is what kept him off the streets.
“He knows the people that are in his corner, and that’s part of the maturing process,” Bolden said.
Even as strong as his upbringing was, Hood is only human.
Dealing with injuries and constant trade talk has had its mental wear and tear, whether he’ll personally admit it or not. He speaks to Ricky Sr. daily and his mother, Vicky, has traveled back and forth from Meridian to Salt Lake City for lengthy periods to keep his spirits lifted. Vicky does it all from cooking and counseling to babysitting the grandchildren to making sure things are going smoothly during this period of a possible change.
“What I need him to know and what we do and where we are is family over everything,” Vicky said. “The one constant that he has in his life right now, regardless of whether he plays with the Jazz or somebody else or whether he’s in the NBA period is the love of his family.
“So whatever they need, if I can help provide or relieve some of the stress so they’re not worried about that part of it, that’s what I’m here for.”
Ricky Sr. is doing the same.
Rodney Hoods father, Ricky Sr., is the executive director for the Boys & Girls Club of East Mississippi. Hood spent much of his childhood in this gymnasium. | Eric Woodyard, Deseret News
Most of their conversations are non-basketball related, but during their recent calls he continues to stress growth from this experience. It’s also tremendously important for the Hood family to be at Hood’s possible final game in a Jazz uniform on Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies. He dropped 30 points with them in the stands on Monday versus the New Orleans Pelicans.
“We just want him to just enjoy it. The worst feeling in the world is not knowing, I don’t care who you are,” Ricky Sr. said. “We’d be crazy to think that ‘he’s going to be fine.’
“Rodney is still 25 and he’s a young 25 (mentally) because he’s still connected (to his heart),” he added. “A lot of them guys are like ‘I don’t care’ but that’s not him. His heart is a part of everything he does.”
So whatever happens is going to happen leading into the trade deadline.
No matter what city he ends up in next, Hood is Meridian, Mississippi, to the core and currently a member of the Utah Jazz. Everything else is irrelevant until a decision is made.
“I never get into the stuff that comes outside the court, I just focus on what I can control,” Hood said.
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Published at Wed, 07 Feb 2018 13:40:00 +0000