Malina Hood leaves a legacy
MATTHEW ROBERSON | SPORTS EDITOR | @mroberson22
Growing up with a twin sibling can be a fascinating experience. When paired with a person of the exact same age that looks virtually identical to them, many people feel the need to make a name for themselves for fear of being constantly lumped together with their lookalike. Malina Hood did just that in her four years as a member of the University of San Diego women’s basketball team. While often playing alongside her twin sister, Maya, the 5’10” Malina Hood stood out with her incredible scoring ability and shooting touch from the three point line. In fact, the Torero twins terrified opposing defenses with their ability to complement one another on the court.
Hood, a dynamic wing player, has a long and illustrious list of accomplishments from her time as a collegiate athlete. She was a part of four straight 20-win seasons. In addition, she was twice selected as a first team All-West Coast Conference player. Her name will forever be etched in the USD basketball record books, as she splashed a school record 237 three-pointers in her four years wearing Torero blue. Hood also ended her career with an average of 12.4 points per game, good for seventh best in USD history. Hood’s team also appeared in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament every year that she was on the team. They reached the Sweet Sixteen round in two of those tournaments, a feat that was only matched by the 2011-12 team that advanced to the tournament’s Final Four.
Hood has had some time to reflect on her career in the weeks since the buzzer sounded on her final game, which came in the fabled Crisler Arena on the campus of the University of Michigan.
“I think when I first got to USD I didn’t really know where I fit in,” Hood said. “Over the years with the support of my teammates and my coaches I kind of found my place. I figured out what I was good at and what I needed to do to help my team out.”
Her senior season was a fitting end to a stellar career. Hood’s points per game average increased every season, as did her minutes played. Over the course of four years Hood saw her role evolve tremendously. As a freshman she was a sparsely used bench player, averaging just over 11 minutes of playing time per game. That year’s team featured an offense that was run by older players such as Klara Wischer and Amy Kame, leaving few opportunities for Hood to showcase her penchant for getting buckets.
Hood is grateful of that time on the bench as a freshman, as it allowed her to expand her knowledge about the game of basketball by watching the action from a different perspective.
“I just learned that you have to keep pushing, keep working hard, and don’t give up,” Hood said. “I know it’s really hard for some people when they come in expecting to play a lot. You just have to keep fighting, keep on pushing and know that your coach is going to notice and your teammates are going to notice. They will trust you, and are depending on you to make big plays in the long run and carry the team on your back.”
Head coach Cindy Fisher also took note of Hood’s growth from a freshman role player into one of the school’s most accomplished women’s basketball players.
“I think when she first got here she kind of wanted to wait and let other people do their thing,” Fisher said. “We could see in individual workouts and breakdowns that she definitely had the potential. As her freshman year kept going on and on she kept getting better and better…With Maya sitting out that next year [as a redshirt] I think it put a lot more pressure on Malina to really become her own. I think she grew a lot that year.”
Senior year was the culmination of countless hours of hard work and dedication to a program that allowed her to play college basketball just 20 minutes from her high school in La Jolla. Hood put up a career best 18.4 points per game, tying her for the USD single-season record with Kiva Herman, who scored at an identical clip in the 2008-09 campaign.
Fisher has been at the helm of the Toreros’ women’s team since 2005. She holds Hood in high regard and is incredibly proud of the accolades that one of her most decorated players received.
“She’s an amazing person; I call her the Silent Assassin,” Fisher said. “She’s just one of those people who’s very unassuming but when it comes time to tip it up she’s going to hit big shots for you because she wants the ball in her hand. I think it just really proves that she worked hard to become the player she was.”
Of course, one could not talk about Hood’s storybook senior season without mentioning the game-winning shot she hit to beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs, winners of 11 straight conference regular season crowns entering the year. Down by two points with under 30 seconds to go, the Toreros turned to their senior leader on the most vital possession. After receiving a pass on the left wing from junior guard Katherine Hamilton, the sweet-shooting Hood rose above two Gonzaga defenders and calmly swished home a three pointer in front of the USD bench.
Hood has understandably fond memories of the shot that catapulted the Toreros to their first victory on Gonzaga’s home floor since 2002.
“I just remember catching the ball, and I knew I had to shoot it,” Hood said. “I didn’t really have the space so I took a dribble and hoped it didn’t get blocked. I don’t really remember if I could actually see the basket. I guess it must have been like a muscle memory thing. Luckily it went in, so that was nice.”
While Malina’s record-setting career has come to its conclusion, her twin has one more year to dazzle fans at the JCP thanks to her redshirt season in 2013-14. If Maya is anything like her sister, it will be a final year to remember.