Rodney Hood feels like a man doing time.
He knew that after transferring from Mississippi State to Duke this summer that he would have to sit out a season. But here are two things Hood did not know before coming: There’s no TV in the Duke dorm rooms, and he’s not allowed to travel with the team because of his transfer status.
“It’s almost like a prison, like you’re on punishment type of thing,” Hood said. “It wasn’t like I just decided to leave. My coach left. I went to that school to play for that coach. When he left, I felt like a big part of me left, as far as the reason I went to the school. For me to be put in this shell, and have to stay here all the time—even though Duke has a great campus—it feels like more punishment than anything.”
Hood is not prevented from going to road games, but from having Duke pay his costs. According to NCAA bylaw 220.127.116.11, an institution may only provide travel expenses for a student-athlete “eligible for intercollegiate competition.” As a transfer student who did not receive a waiver, Hood is not eligible for competition.
“Think of it as not just a basketball rule,” said Cameron Schuh, NCAA associate director for public and media relations. “This is an NCAA all-sports rule, so think of it in terms of football—what the expectations would be of a school with a football program with however many kids that have transferred in and are ineligible that year—having to pay for all of them to travel, the meals, the hotel and stuff like that.”
While the NCAA is reforming some recruiting rules, Schuh said this rule is not among the ones being discussed for change.
Because Hood is allowed to go to games if he provides his own transportation, he has been able to go to ones that are close by, such as the loss to N.C. State. He did not sit on the bench for that game, however, and was unable to attend the team’s loss to Miami.
“You sit here and battle with these guys every day, and then you can’t be there to support them,” Hood said. “[Tyler Thornton] pointed out to me the other day, ‘We’re undefeated with you on the bench.’ I ain’t think about it—not saying I get any credit for that—but I just wish I could be there.”
Hood finds other ways to stay connected with the team, even when he cannot go to the games. He said he sends his teammates text messages both before and after games, just to let them know he’s watching.
Where he watches, though, varies. Because there is no cable in the dorm rooms, he said he often watches with some of the managers in the locker room and uses halftime as an opportunity to get in a quick workout.
Sometimes the quiet-mannered Hood likes to go to the Buffalo Wild Wings near Chapel Hill because he is less of a celebrity there, farther away from Duke.
The people who work at Buffalo Wild Wings know him, he said, but help him keep a low profile in contrast to his popularity on the Duke campus.
Hood, who did not expect many people on campus to know who he is considering he cannot play, said life at Duke is different because the students “throw themselves into the game, which is a shock to me.”
On the court, Hood said senior forward Mason Plumlee has been the one to take the extra time and mentor him as Hood primes himself to assume a leadership role next year.
“I probably won’t be the leader,” Hood said, “but I’ll be one of the leaders.”
The pair often plays 1-on-1 after practice, though Plumlee owns at least two inches over the Meridian, Miss. native. “Sometimes when I get to winning, he’ll get to posting up, which I can’t do nothing about,” Hood said.
The other person who spends extra time with Hood is the team’s head coach, Mike Krzyzewski. Hood said Krzyzewski will work with him after games, pointing out things he can work on whether it is his movement on the court or areas he should be focusing on in the weight room.
So the year has not been a total waste. Hood has noticed good habits he has developed during the course of the season: moving without the ball, going for offensive rebounds and staying down in a defensive stance.
“Even since I was little, I heard he’s a great coach, blah, blah, blah. But you don’t get the full effect unless you’re right there with him every day,” Hood said.
But Hood still can’t wait for when he actually gets to suit up for the all-time winningest coach.
“It’s great playing for him, even though I’m not playing for him really right now,” Hood said.