There are several people Erik Hood credits for his success growing up in Philadelphia.
Kobe Bryant’s father, Joe Bryant, was instrumental as a mentor. Others include former Utah Jazz player Mo Howard, who is the father of Hood’s best friend and head basketball coach at La Salle University, Ashley Howard. Hood’s high school coach, Bill Ellerbee and his AAU coach Tennis Young, also made an impact on his life, along with others.
Most recently, it was Harry Cannon, known by many as “Coach.”
Shortly after Hood moved to Ahwatukee, he expressed interest in coaching basketball. “Coach” set him up with South Mountain High School Athletic Director Brian Fair and head basketball coach Jeremy Soria, who offered him a job shortly after.
“Harry Cannon put everything in motion for me,” Hood said. “He’s the one responsible.”
Now 3 years into his role as the head junior varsity coach at South Mountain, Hood used the help he received as a kid to assist those in the south Phoenix community.
Hood received the Community and Service Special Presentation in February for the positive impact he makes on the lives of youth in the community from A Permanent Voice, a south Phoenix based organization. He was presented the award during halftime of South Mountain’s final home game.
“It was huge, I was taken aback by it,” Hood said. “When you do things with good, pure intentions, you don’t look to get recognized. So, to be recognized for something that was done for me when I was these kids’ age, it was humbling.
“I’m just doing what I believe I’m supposed to do for the youth.”
Hood helps those involved in the South Mountain basketball program as well as players on his AAU team, which is named after his nephew and former University of Arizona standout Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who currently plays for the Toronto Raptors.
Team Hollis-Jefferson was established in 2017 on the premise of helping high school basketball players find a path to the next level. Hood said the idea was set in motion after he met former Mountain Pointe basketball player Malik Salahuddin at a local Ahwatukee gym.
“Malik happened to be a really solid player,” Hood said. “I told him as long as he continues to work on his game, he has a realistic chance of going to school for free.”
Hood started training Salahuddin. When Hood met his mother, she expressed her concerns with local AAU programs and asked him to start his own.
After a few visits to club camps and tournaments in the Valley, Hood began believing in his ability to not only create a team, but to be competitive.
“I started thinking to myself, ‘if I did start a team, I could win,’” Hood said. “So, I essentially started the team for Malik.”
Hood pitched the idea to Hollis-Jefferson, who agreed to endorse the club team. But they wanted it to be about more than just basketball. They aimed to offer SAT prep and mentor programs for the players to stay engaged academically.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about giving back,” Hood said. “We come from underserved, underprivileged areas. We wanted to be the people we needed when we were younger.”
With the help of the club team, Hood’s impact on the lives of youth players is now extending well beyond the south Phoenix border. Team Hollis-Jefferson’s roster is occupied kids from all over the state, including a player from Tucson and one from Sierra Vista near the Arizona-Mexico border.
For Hood, it’s all about creating opportunities for players. In the club’s first year of existence, six of its nine players received scholarships. Since then, there have been several more.
Seeing the type of dedication from players traveling hours just for practice twice a week drives Hood to continue on his own path of success, which involves helping kids.
He aims to continue bettering the lives of all youth athletes he comes into contact with. Hood knows there is more work to be done for kids in south Phoenix and Arizona, but admits it’s humbling to be recognized for all he’s already done for underprivileged youth.
“I’m thankful people see what it is I am trying to do without me trying to bolster or be loud about it,” Hood said. “I’m honored, really.”