INDIANAPOLIS — As Jon Hood watched Kentucky starters come and go over these last five seasons, the 6-foot-7 guard polished his scouting skills.
He didn't have much choice.
The seldom-used senior has defended 17 NBA draft picks — a number that will almost certainly increase whenever this current tournament run ends. He's simulated dozens of other pros on the Wildcats' scout team, and as his career winds down, Hood explains he's learned a few things from taking all those lumps.
"It's the little things, like don't back down, no matter who comes at you," Hood said Saturday. "If DeMarcus Cousins argues a call with you in a pick-up game, don't back down."
He hasn't. Despite making just one start and averaging 4.9 minutes and 1.1 points in his college career, Hood still wants to play pro basketball somewhere next season before pursuing a more lasting and perhaps fitting career, coaching.
Perhaps no player in the nation is better suited for a coaching job, given Hood's keen eye for spotting talent.
Hood watched five of his college teammates — John Wall, Cousins, Patrick Paterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton — get taken in the first round of the 2010 draft. Four more Wildcats were chosen the next year including Enes Kanter and Brandon Knight, who were top-eight picks. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the top two picks in 2012, leading a six-man contingent of Kentucky draftees, and last year, Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin joined the first-round parade.
Had Noel been healthy entering the draft, Hood likely would have had the unusual distinction of playing with three No. 1 overall picks — Wall, Davis and Noel.
But what he's enjoyed as much as defending those future stars in practice is playing the part of an NBA shooter against them.