Hood requests opportunity for more playing time


UK guard Jon Hood, left, is guarded by guard John Wall during the first period of the Blue and White scrimmage at Rupp Arena Wednesday night. Photo by Zach Brake

The UK men’s basketball team is 27-2 overall and leading the Southeastern Conference with a 12-2 record, but that’s not to say all is peaceful in the land of the Bluegrass.

The Cats have struggled from 3-point range in their last four outings, shooting 12-for-73. While the recent shooting woes haven’t been enough to cause the Cats to lose multiple games, it’s been enough to gain the attention of UK fans.

On Monday afternoon, when UK head coach John Calipari was watching game tape of Georgia play Alabama, freshman guard Jon Hood built up the confidence to ask for more playing time.

“I just walked in, and it was me being unshy and said, ‘I’d like to play more,’ ” Hood said.

Hood, known for his shooting ability coming out of Madisonville High School as the 40th ranked prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com. Hood has seen playing time in 11 games this season, averaging 1.3 points.

With only two regular season games remaining on the schedule, Hood said he’s been working on his ball handling, strength and shot which have improved throughout the season. The idea to talk to Calipari wasn’t just his though. Hood attributed part of the idea to his high school assistant coach, folks from Madisonville, Ky., and himself.

Hood said even if the Cats weren’t going through their recent shooting woes he believes he still would have talked to Calipari. In their conversation, Hood said he only asked for an opportunity to see more playing time, but he wasn’t asking for anything to be given to him.

“I understand if I don’t get a shot, if we’re playing well, the game is close or whatever, I’m fine,” Hood said. “If we’re winning, I’m fine. I’m happy.”

Calipari said he liked Hood’s attitude about approaching him to ask about an opportunity for more minutes, and now it boils down to him showing what he can do.

“I said, ‘You know what, I need to give you a chance,’ ” Calipari said. “So we’ll see how things play out. But I love it when guys — that’s their attitude. ‘Let me get in there and do it.’ Because then it’s not on me, it’s on them.”

The Cats are shooting 34.7 percent from 3-point range on the season, but just 29.1 percent in conference play, the second worst mark in the SEC. Still, the Cats have only lost two games, and despite shooting 2-for-22 at rival Tennessee on Saturday, the Cats found themselves tied with the Volunteers with 2:10 remaining on the clock.

Calipari made clear on Tuesday he didn’t say his team was going through a “slump,” but instead were going “through spells where you don’t make shots.” Calipari said streaks like this are what all teams go through during the season, and there isn’t a single player, including Michael Jordan, who hasn’t had a spell where he’s told himself, “Man, I’m not feeling this right now.”

“Well, you can either say, ‘I’m going to change this by getting in the gym,’ which is what (my team is) doing. ‘I’m going to keep shooting balls. I’m going to work my way out of it.’ Or you listen to everybody (talking about a slump) and you start believing it,” Calipari said.

Hood acknowledged being labeled as a shooter isn’t exactly a bad thing during a streak like the one the Cats are going through now, but he’s willing to do whatever he can to help the team out.

“I just want to get in and contribute,” Hood said. “Whether that be assists, rebounding, blocked shots, charges, whatever it is. Anything I can do to help.”