Capt. Antoine Hood patiently waiting for call from NBA
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 4, 2012 1:53 AM
His sleeveless blue T-shirt dripping with sweat and baggy shorts flapping as he dribbles downcourt, Capt. Antoine Hood sizes up his defender.
He stops, dribbles between his legs and drives toward the basket.
The move momentarily catches his opponent off guard.
Moments later, Hood spins around his defender and kisses another shot off the glass.
Then, just to rub salt into the open wound, Hood fakes his defender with a move toward the goal but steps back and swishes a 17-footer near the top of the key.
Hood impressed scouts during his workouts with different NBA teams upon graduation from the Air Force Academy. But the reservist with the 916th Force Support Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base hasn't gotten his foot in the door in a fast-paced, dog-eat-dog business.
Once the NBA no longer became a fantasy but reality for Hood, he strongly admits he didn't have the right type of advisers. The professional athletics world is one of entertainment and he missed having someone who could work the proper channels to get him into a uniform.
He discovered that reality a few years ago.
Hood used 200 days of excess leave from the Air Force to play in an NBA developmental league. He hit the game-winning free throws to send his team to the finals that season, but also noticed that his playing time had diminished while a teammate's court time had steadily increased.
The teammate had an agent.
"I've learned that agents are very important," said Hood, who turned down a full scholarship from SMU after his sophomore season and most likely would have been a first-round draft pick after his senior year at the Academy.
"Now there is clearly more to the chess game than playing basketball. It's not really based on talent. At a certain level, everybody can do everything. What separates, differentiates you from someone? It's who you know. I'm learning it's a business and I have to turn myself into a marketable person. Besides basketball, what am I bringing to the table?"
The San Antonio Spurs offered Hood a contract in 2007.
However, he found himself in a constant battle with the government to leave the Air Force. No one would sign the document that could help jump-start his career in a sport he passionately loves and plays every day.
Hood, unwittingly, started to burn bridges.
"I was in my early 20s at the time," Hood said. "I was told if I had a contract, I would be released. Maybe I wasn't mature enough for the lifestyle, who knows? But I don't think I wouldn't have gotten too far from the home station to do myself or the Air Force any significant damage.
"I don't think I'll ever understand why it happened the way it did."
Hood completed his active duty service commitment and moved to Florida where he became a Reservist. He continued to demonstrate to himself and to others that he was a person who "internalized" the Academy core values, and proved that they were more than just words written in a book or on a wall.
There are certain windows of time for basketball players.
Running up and down hardwood courts and playing at a high level can take its toll on the body, not to mention battling against physical opponents. The player's "mileage rate" diminishes.
Hood, who played in the Czech Republic and Venezuela, has never suffered a major injury. The 28-year-old married father is in peak physical condition and goes through drills -- fundamentals, dribbling and shooting -- every day at 5 a.m. in the gym.
He'll swim laps in the pool while wearing a hoodie and sweats.
The gear causes onlookers to look twice.
"It gets a lot of attention," laughs Hood. "It's natural resistance (and) water is one of the greatest training tools. The pool is a different use of your muscles. You get the same gains without constant pounding on cartilage and joints.
"I've seen the difference and it's amazing compared to what I would do in the weight room."
Staying in the loop is important for Hood, who understands that basketball is potential-based and is the only sport that has no definitive separator.
Keeping positive relationships are key, too.
"Communication is a very important tool in life because everybody is different and everybody comes from different backgrounds," Hood said. "If I can't communicate with you effectively whether I'm playing basketball or getting a job, I'm not going to be very successful.
"That is huge."
Hood feels confident he will get his shot at the NBA.
He's proven he can play at that level.
He has the character, fortitude and perseverance to succeed. He displayed those traits as a 9-year-old when he beat cancer and silenced his doubtful high school teammates when he earned a scholarship to the Academy.
"I want my opportunity," Hood said. "If you don't have a good agent or someone pulling for you on the political side, you're spinning your wheels. Now, it's a matter of having a good agent and being in the right place at the right time."
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