By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Rodney Hood is leaving Mississippi State’s basketball program.
The freshman guard is leaving the Mississippi State basketball program with the intent to transfer elsewhere, the school confirmed tonight. Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com first reported the news.
In an MSU release, Hood’s father, Ricky Hood, said they discussed the issue this weekend. But he said talk of transferring has been in the works for some time now, and new coach Rick Ray – who was hired a week ago today – wasn’t able to persuade him into staying.
“This decision is nothing Coach Ray could have prevented,” Ricky Hood said in a statement. “In short period of time we have gotten to know him, we feel he is the right person for this job. But for Rodney, talk of transferring started two and half months ago. Right now, though, the situation is awkward, and we just feel it is time to move on.”
MSU’s season did not go nearly as hoped. The Bulldogs lost seven of their last nine games, fell in the first round of the SEC Tournament, and failed to earn an NCAA tourney at-large bid. They finished 21-12 after a loss to UMass in the first round of the NIT.
During that late-season collapse, forward Arnett Moultrie criticized teammates and said everyone had their own agendas. Hood said after the UMass loss that there had been off-court issues during the season.
“Next year, we’re going to be ready,” Hood said after that game.
In a statement tonight, Hood said, “It was just a long, tough year for me. Coach Ray will be a great asset to Mississippi State and getting to know him last week made this decision even harder, but after much thought, I am going to ask for a release. I wish my teammates and the program nothing but the best.”
In the same statement, Ray said, “Obviously, we are disappointed in Rodney’s decision. I was looking forward to getting a chance to develop and coach him. This decision, unfortunately, was made before my hire. The Hoods were forthright and honest about where they were when I met with them, and I appreciate their honesty.
“I look forward to putting together a team with the current members, rolling up our sleeves and recruiting new Bulldogs.”
There had been reports last week that Hood would consider leaving instead of playing for Ray. Hood has not returned a message seeking further comment, nor has his father, who is a former MSU player.
“As parents, we struggled with the decision, because we wanted him to stay at Mississippi State,” Ricky Hood said. “But at the end of the day, it’s Rodney’s decision, and we want him to be happy.”
From Day 1, Hood was a starter for State. He averaged 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He shot 44.3 percent from the field, including 36.4 percent from 3-point range.
He’s the fourth player to leave the program since the season ended. Moultrie and Renardo Sidney left a year early to go pro, while freshman point guard DeVille Smith decided to transfer.
Only one member of the 2011 signing class – Roquez Johnson – remains with the program. D.J. Gardner was dismissed in August, and Shawn Long transferred to UL-Lafayette in December.
This leaves the Bulldogs with five scholarship players returning from the 2011-12 squad, and only four of those saw playing time. Of those, only junior Wendell Lewis and Jalen Steele have starts under their belts.
Ray is trying to hold together a five-man signing class.