By MATTHEW STEVENS
Rodney Hood went from being booed in Starkville on Tuesday night to universally cheered in that same town less than 12 hours later.
Hood had 33 points and six rebounds while leading Meridian High School to a 70-59 victory over the Yellowjackets two nights ago in a rematch of last year’s Class 6A state final in Jackson that Starkville won 57-51 on March 3, 2010.
“It was exciting to look at my future hometown while I go to college,” Hood said. “I’d been thinking about this game all week.”
Mississippi State officials were unable to comment about any signees because the paperwork had not been officially processed Wednesday.
Hood got the Wildcats on the scoreboard first with a three-pointer and had 19 points in the a first half that saw Meridian head to the locker room with a 39-22 advantage.
"It's hard to double him because he sees over the top of people so well," Starkville High head coach Greg Carter said.
Carter was a first-team All-SEC selection while starting at small forward for State during the 1990-91 season and is currently 26th all-time in scoring with 1,123 points in his MSU career.
"(Hood) is better than he was last year," Carter said. "He's improved over the summer and he was unguardable for us tonight."
With Mississippi State players Dee Bost and Brian Bryant in the stands at Starkville High, Hood played all five positions for Meridian Tuesday night and finished 10-of-15 from the field, 11-of-12 from the foul line and was 4-for-6 from beyond the three-point arc.
“It was nice to see them in the stands (Tuesday night) and see who I’ll be playing with next year,” Hood said Tuesday night. “I texted Dee this week and he told me he was coming and that was exciting.”
The 6-foot-7 left-handed guard, who committed to State on October 27 and was able to convince Okolona guard D.J. Gardner to commit two days later, turned the frown of the local community upside down by signing his national letter-of-intent Wednesday morning with the Bulldogs.
“Rodney is a guy that can do it all for us but I think State is getting a bonified two-guard," Meridian head coach Randy Bolden said. "He's got an old-school game and what separates him from every other good player is his efficiency offensively and his basketball intelligence. It's funny because he'd had that basketball I.Q., since the ninth grade.”
Gardner, a 6-foot-7 guard/forward, went ahead and signed a letter of intent with State as well Wednesday morning at Okolona High School.
“I saw that Rodney Hood had committed and then I just decided to stay home and be close to my family,” D.J. Gardner said when he committed on October 29. “What this does is it allows my grandmother, uncle and girlfriend from here a chance to see me all the time and see me play.”
Prospects are allowed to sign letters of intent through next Wednesday.