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From the Pressbox: Catching up with Jon Hood

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"These guys knew each other coming in and they had a plan coming in and they've done it so far."

Junior Jon Hood observed that mindset in UK's four-man freshman class during pickup games last summer, before Hood suffered his season-ending knee injury. While watching from the sidelines during his rehab, Hood has watched this group grow into a juggernaut.

"They've kept their egos in check. Nobody complains about playing time or shots," he said. "Anthony Davis takes the fifth-most shots on our team and he doesn't complain.

"Going into SEC Tournament, we always have this swagger that we're going to win. I think any time you hear the word 'tournament,' as a player, you want to win. In reality, it really doesn't matter. (But) these three games in three days could be a tuneup thing," Hood added.

As good as the underclassmen are, Hood says there is a deference to senior Darius Miller and that is a role that Miller is relishing.

"He loves being the leader. Darius plays when coach wants him to play and he gets things done," Hood noted. "Winning time has turned into 'Miller time' here. He always seems to do things right. He's grown in that leadership role in the time that I've been here. He's more of a leader and he's more confident. He doesn't want to let the team lose. He takes a lot of the weight when stuff happens."

It's hard to lead without followers and Hood says he has been impressed by how focused this group has been from the start.

"They listen better than any team I've ever seen. We listened well as freshman and we listened really well last year. We're up there with last year as far as that (goes). If we play good basketball for 40 minutes," Hood said, "I don't think anybody can beat us."

As a Kentuckian, Hood knows there's a segment of the Big Blue Nation that always seems to be in a worrying mode. This season, they debate whether or not this 30-1 Kentucky team "needs" to take a loss to avoid the pressure of a long winning streak heading into NCAA Tournament play. Hood is not buying into that line of thinking.

"Teams that need a loss don't have mental toughness. They can't concentrate, they can't focus. We have one thing on our minds. It's not the NBA, it's not the SEC Tournament," he explained. "It's that we all want a championship ring. We're trying to win a national title and we're trying harder than anyone else in the country."

Hood helps out in practice and is able to offer a veteran presence but he would love nothing more than to be playing a role on that court. But he's optimistic about returning to action, within a couple of months.

"It's going good," Hood said of his rehabilitation from the knee surgery. "About 80 to 85 percent back, depending on the day. You wake up and it's rainy and cold and the knee hurts a little. They're going to let me go in May and start playing pickup (games)."

And soon after that, he'll be able to gauge the next group of superstar freshman and thinking about how he'll have to lead them as a fourth-year redshirt junior next winter.

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