STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State's Rodney Hood has decided to transfer, meaning new coach Rick Ray will have to replace the team's entire starting five next season.
Hood was one of the Southeastern Conference's best freshmen this past season, averaging 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. The 6-foot-8 guard from Meridian, Miss., played in 32 games, starting 29.
Hood's departure is the latest blow for MSU's basketball program. Longtime Coach Rick Stansbury retired after 14 seasons in March, leaving Ray with a monumental rebuilding project. Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie have also left in recent weeks to pursue professional careers.
"Obviously, we are disappointed in Rodney's decision," Ray said in a statement released by the university. "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."
While the Sidney and Moultrie departures were expected, Hood's decision was surprising. He grew up about 100 miles from campus and was viewed as the centerpiece of Ray's rebuilding effort. The new coach — who was hired on April 1 after two seasons as the associate head coach at Clemson — mentioned Hood by name during his opening press conference, describing him as "very important to our program."
Now he's gone. And it leaves a gaping hole in Mississippi State's rebuilding efforts.
"I want to thank Mississippi State for giving me an opportunity to play this year," Hood said in a statement. "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."
Mississippi State recently finished a disappointing 21-12 season after a loss to Massachusetts in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. The Bulldogs looked like a lock for the NCAA tournament midway through the season, rising to No. 15 in the national rankings, but a five-game skid in February and an early exit in the SEC tournament meant the season fell well short of expectations.