Monday, December 3, 2012
ESPN 60 SG Booker a unique recruit
By Dave Telep
There’s a lot of Michigan in Mississippi’s best Class of 2014 basketball prospect. Of course, there’s a good reason for that.
“I lived in Michigan my whole life,” said Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point), a 6-foot-4 shooting guard who is ranked the No. 18 overall prospect in the ESPN 60.
Booker lived with his mother in Grand Rapids, Mich., until scratching an itch and moving south to be near his father. “I made the move to be with my dad so he could be around me all the time and train me,” Booker said.
ESPN 60 guard Devin Booker is racking up the miles visiting schools like Duke, UNC, Florida, Michigan and Michigan State.
It just so happens that Booker’s father is Melvin Booker, a former Missouri Tiger great who played professionally in the NBA and overseas.
As a youngster, Devin would visit his father in Mississippi during the summer. Eventually, Melvin retired and did so with the intention of helping his son en route to his own college career. Melvin is now an assistant at Moss Point.
“He doesn’t say anything to anyone but me,” a chuckling Devin said.
“He yells at me the most. He goes all out on me.”
That’s because Melvin went hard when he played, and he thinks this generation can push it more. “He always says that not many guys could play with him back them,” Devin said.
Melvin’s basketball journey took him across the United States in the NBA and CBA as well as overseas, and his career created memories for his young son. Devin used to visit his father in Italy when Melvin played with Danilo Gallinari.
Melvin had a lot of help over in Italy with Gallinari, but Devin is finding that life at Moss Point is a learning curve as his season began with a 2-4 record. However, he has the proper perspective and sees the future.
“We lost seven seniors from last year,” Devin said. “Right now we’re starting three sophomores and we’re really young. We have to take it a little slow.”
Moss Point’s youth and Devin’s celebrity means constant double- and triple-teams to go with a plethora of junk defenses. The byproduct of the constant attention is that Devin has had to work hard to shore up his ball-handling.
“That’s what me and my dad worked on,” Devin said. “Being around him has helped it. I’m making better decisions.”
One decision that looms further down the road will be Devin’s college choice. Melvin, who has kept ties to his alma mater, represents the Missouri angle. Devin has been up there a bunch, and Frank Haith has also visited Mississippi. Devin sees himself as a No. 1 recruit for Mizzou.
“Right now I feel that way,” Devin said. “They’ve got the 2013 class set. In 2014, they’re recruiting a few other players, but they keep in touch with me a lot.”
LSU, which is 45 minutes from his home, watched him on Saturday night and he has also visited there. Michigan State, Michigan, Alabama and Mississippi Stare are other places he’s visited. Florida and Tennessee also rate high in his mind, and North Carolina made contact this fall.
Devin is living in the heart of SEC territory right now, and he grew up in Big Ten country most of his life. So he’s going to have a unique final list.
He’s also the type of kid who will do his homework. He’s a hoops junkie, so he’ll be watching everything. Colleges are dealing with a highly intelligent person and player. Devin has never received even a B or C on a report card – he’s gotten straight A’s his entire life.
So far, the junior wing has graded out well among his peers on the court as well. Following a strong spring and favorable summer, he cemented himself as a top 25 prospect.
Best advice he’s received from his father... “It would be, ‘Don’t let basketball use you; use basketball.’ It’s a blessing. Not many kids get to have all the colleges coming at me. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and you can never go back to it.”
On playing too much basketball... “Me and my dad have this conversation a lot. He thinks between EYBL, the camps and the high school season, he says it’s too much. I don’t think it’s too much.”
What it’s like after a long July evaluation period... “August feels good. That’s really the only time you get to chill, but you’re still training for the upcoming season.”