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Hood, Polson put together excellent UK careers

By Daniel Paulling dpaulling@paducahsun.com

Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson finished a pair of amazing college basketball careers this season.

Sure, the two former Kentucky players aren't as recognizable as one-and-dones such as Anthony Davis or Julius Randle. But not many other people have played on three Final Four teams, two that advanced to the national championship game and one that won a title.

And Hood and Polson - who led a youth basketball camp on Saturday with former Wildcat Jeff Sheppard at McCracken County High School - received the opportunity to do so while playing for the most successful program in their home state.

"That's kind of the dream as a little kid when you do that," said Polson, who grew up in Wilmore. "I got to experience a lot of awesome things, got to meet a lot of new people I never thought I'd get to meet."

Those new people include the 15 Wildcats who reached the NBA and played with him over four seasons. Hood, who spent five seasons in Lexington and the last four with Polson after growing up in Madisonville, has seen 16.

The two plan on watching Thursday's NBA Draft to see if that number increases. Mock drafts have former Wildcats Randle and James Young being chosen among the top dozen players.

"I'll be watching the first 12 picks," Hood said. "After that, I'll turn it off."

Though he and Polson likely won't be chosen, their playing careers should pay dividends.

Being a former Wildcat helps when you're running an in-state basketball camp, of course. Saturday's drew more than 60 kids ranging from kindergartners to seventh-graders.

But Hood hopes his time in Lexington will help his professional basketball career, and Polson earned bachelor's degrees in finance and marketing.

"Both of them already have companies that have called them about, 'Hey, what are you doing after you're done playing?'" Wildcats coach John Calipari told news reporters after his team beat Alabama 55-48 on senior night. (Hood and Polson were the lone seniors.) "They're both going to have great careers because of what they've done here."

Hood recently spent a week in Italy attending a showcase and mentioned options to play in Belgium and the Czech Republic.

Polson has given up his playing career, and though he's unsure of what career he hopes to pursue, his degrees should be beneficial.

"My dad always said, 'Don't let basketball use you. You use basketball,'" Polson said.

"That's what I did. I wanted to get some degrees in college."

Hood played 425 minutes in his career, Polson 800. Neither averaged more than 1.5 points per game, and they made just 80 field goals in their eight seasons of play.

But Sheppard, who won national championships with the Wildcats in 1996 and 1998, believes their value extended beyond the court.

"You've seen the history of Kentucky basketball," Sheppard said.

"The teams that have done really well, especially in the end of the season and the tournament, have had that experience in some form or fashion. In 2012, it came from Darius Miller. This year, they had Jon and Jarrod.

"It's a critical part - one of the reasons everybody is so excited for this year." 

Call Daniel Paulling, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8662, or follow on Twitter @DanielPaulling.

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