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December 21, 2011

Hood finding a niche on UK sideline

Maybe Jon Hood will go into coaching.

He never thought about it much. Not when running was an afterthought, not before shooting became a privilege. But things look different from the sideline. Now Kentucky's junior swingman sees things differently.

"This has made me think more about coaching," Hood said Wednesday. "I don't know what level but it has made me think more."

On Thursday, Hood's Kentucky teammates will take on Loyola (Md.) and he'll watch from the sidelines like always. He might make an observation or two, might point out to assistant coach John Robic a play he sees that might work.

It's not the role Hood envisioned for himself. But it's the one he has now.

It's been that way since July, when Hood tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He still can't run - Jan. 12, he hopes - so he's a rebounder, grabbing the jumpers his teammates take in practice and tossing them back.

And for now, that role will remain.

There was a time, Hood admits, when he thought he'd try to work his way back by late in the season. He's pushing those thoughts onto the back burner now.

"Late February is a short time period to get my… conditioning back up," Hood said. "Jump shot will be there, because I'll get to start shooting sometime next week."

Mostly, though, Hood is focusing on ways he can be a good teammate without getting on the court. He points out ways the offense can run more effectively. He offers advice for his younger teammates.

"You feel separated," Hood said. "You can't do this and you can't do that, but you can go through meetings and pre-games. I get to pass to the guys and that's how I stay connected. I can lift with them. I'm in here when they run. I try to stay connected as best I can."

It's not easy, but Hood's making it work.

"He's doing good," UK coach John Calipari said. "He's involved in every practice. He watches tape with Coach Robic. He's around us and he's doing pretty good."

But Hood hasn't thought much about his short-term future. He's unsure even if he'll take a redshirt year, a conversation he's yet to have Calipari.

"When that time comes, I'll go off and I'll talk to coach and we'll talk about it," Hood said. "But to this point we haven't talked about it, so I'm at no liberty to say if I am or not."

So Hood focuses on day-to-day progress and he ponders - just maybe - a future in coaching, something he says he didn't consider "at all" before his injury.

That's down the road. For now, Hood's thinking about getting back on the court as a player, and how much he'll savor the opportunity when he does.

"When I come back I'm definitely going to play as hard as I can," Hood said. "Sitting out is just making me cringe sometimes. Not even our guys; our guys play hard, but when other teams' guys (are) going through the motions it's just kind of sickening. You're going through the motions and I'm sitting here and can't play? When I come back I'll play harder than I ever have."

Game Information

Loyola (Md.) at Kentucky
Thursday, 1 p.m.
Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.

TV: Fox Sports South
Radio: UK IMG Network
Series: First meeting
Last Meeting: None

No. 3 Kentucky (10-1)
Coach: John Calipari (477-151; 74-13 at UK)
Loyola (8-2)
Coach: Jimmy Patsos (106-116 at Loyola and overall)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Marquis Teague Fr. 6-2/189 11.1 2.4
G Doron Lamb So. 6-4/210 16.7 4.2
G Darius Miller Sr. 6-8/225 9.9 3.1
F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Fr. 6-7/232 12.9 6.9
F Anthony Davis Fr. 6-10/220 11.5 9.9
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Dylon Cormier So. 6-2/176 16.8 4.9
G R.J. Williams Fr. 5-8/155 3.7 2.2
G Robert Olson Jr. 6-4/191 9.0 2.9
F Shane Walker Sr. 6-10/222 11.8 6.8
F Erik Etherly Jr. 6-7/219 12.4 7.6

Key Storylines

Jones Update
Terrence Jones, who missed Tuesday's game, wasn't expected to practice on Wednesday. He "wants to play" against Loyola, Calipari said, but "I may not let him."

Festive Focus
Kentucky takes a break for Christmas as soon as this game ends, so there's a danger in looking past the Greyhounds. Loyola will play a full-court press, Calipari said, and play a physical style that could present some challenges.

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