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October 20, 2011
With his big brother gone and a new system in place, the late bloomer found his comfort zone. Now he's ready to expand it
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October 20, 2011

Something Worth Roaring About

With his big brother gone and a new system in place, the late bloomer found his comfort zone. Now he's ready to expand it

TRACEY BOOKER NOTICED SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT HER SON DEVIN LAST YEAR. Sure the sophomore was averaging around 13 more minutes on the court for the Tigers than he had averaged as a freshman, but there was something else. "He was more vocal," says Tracey. "After his dunks he would always look up in the air and yell and hit his chest." A year after spending a lot of time on the bench while averaging 4.5 points and 2.9 rebounds, Devin Booker, who had followed his older brother Trevor to Clemson, finally had reasons to get excited.

"As a freshman I was just getting the hang of the game, and I wasn't all that comfortable on the court," says Booker, who last season nearly doubled his freshman scoring and rebounding averages (to 8.1 and 5.5, respectively) while putting in more than 24 minutes per game. "[Last year] I was more enthusiastic. The new coaching staff, they're very enthusiastic people."

Toward the end of his freshman year, frustrated by his lack of playing time and uncertain about his role with the team under coach Oliver Purnell (and with Trevor about to finish his senior season and go to the NBA), Booker considered transferring. Then, that April, Clemson hired Brad Brownell. "After I'd worked with [Devin] for about a week and a half," recalls Brownell, "I felt our system would be one he would enjoy playing in and that we would be able to utilize his full skill set and work on his perimeter skills as well as his post play."

The change appealed to Devin, and even with Trevor gone he began to feel more comfortable on the court. The 6' 8" forward-center took only one three-pointer as a freshman (he missed) then last year attempted 45, converting 15. This past summer Booker tried to improve that three-point shot, but he also worked on his jab step, his crossover and taking defenders off the dribble. "I've got a tendency to just drive straight," says Booker. "I've been working on different moves to finish."

It had been tough for Booker to play such a bit part his freshman year after starring at Union High near his home in Whitmire, S.C. At Union he'd broken Trevor's career scoring record, something Tracey never thought she'd see her third-born son accomplish. As a young child Devin had played mainly baseball, as a pitcher and first baseman. "He made the basketball team in seventh grade, but he was not that good," says Tracey with a laugh. Before Devin started ninth grade, though, Joe Pitt, then Union's coach, saw the gangly, 6' 4" kid's potential and stuck him on the varsity. "His biggest asset other than his ability to score because of his size was his ability to run the floor," says Pitt. "He could run like a deer."

Six years later all of Tracey and Gerald Booker's four sons are playing basketball: Trevor, who's a forward with the Wizards; Darrion, a junior at West Alabama; Devin; and Jared, a freshman at Union High. Tracey herself played at what was then Anderson College in South Carolina.

The Tigers don't yet have many go-to options in the frontcourt beyond Booker and junior power forward Milton Jennings. But if Booker's jump in scoring is similar to last year's—and the coaches expect it to be—ACC opponents will grow tired of the bellowing from the vociferous junior by season's end.