Booker looking to be 'ferocious'
CLEMSON — On Devin Booker’s left bicep, an outline of South Carolina’s border is painted in black.
Near the top of the outline, a black dot denotes the location of Whitmire, as his arm puts it, “Home of the Booker Boyz.”
Clemson’s senior power forward is proud of his hometown, and proud of his family.
He has moved beyond one, but has yet to leave the other behind.
As Devin begins his final collegiate season, he remains in the shadow of his older brother, Trevor.
Trevor is one of Clemson’s all-time greats, a two-time All-ACC selection and a first-round NBA draft pick beginning his third season with the Washington Wizards.
Devin has yet to define his legacy: he has averaged 7.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for his career, averaging 10.5 points and seven rebounds as a solid if not spectacular junior.
He wants more this season, and he has one more chance to get it as one of two Clemson seniors and cornerstones of a young team that features 11 scholarship freshmen and sophomores.
“I’ve been working hard this offseason, and I’m looking forward it,” Booker said Tuesday at Clemson’s media day. “There’s no pressure put on me. I’m just working hard knowing I’m going to be that go-to guy.”
Devin deflects comparisons to Trevor, saying we’re “so much alike,” but adding that the two are different people.
“He’s his own person, I’m my own person,” he said. “He’s in the NBA, and I’m still at Clemson. So we’re two different people at two different levels. He’s going to do what he has to do in the NBA and I’m going to do what I have to do to make my team better here at the college level.”
While Devin says Trevor is “a lot stronger” than he is, he hopes to use the same style of aggressive play both inside and outside the post.
“He was really something good within the post, and I plan to be that this year,” he said. “It’s hard work and it’ll definitely pay off.”
This offseason, Devin worked all over the floor, hoping to widen his range and improve his mid-range and perimeter game. As a sophomore, he hit 15 of 45 3-pointers, a 33 percent clip, but hit only five of 23 3-pointers as a junior, a 21.7 percent clip.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell believes Devin has the athleticism to be “something special,” in Booker’s words.
“I want to bring the bigger and slower defenders out to me,” he said. “Show them my outside game and demolish smaller defenders in the hole as I can. “Coach told me that ever since last year, I have the quickness to be something special and the athleticism to beat defenders to the hole.”
Devin needs to make noise in more ways than one. Quiet by nature, he must join fellow senior Milton Jennings in assuming the leadership reins graduated guards Tanner Smith and Andre Young left behind.
“It’s being more of a vocal leader,” he said. “(Brownell) sees the leadership role in me, but he wants me to be more vocal on the court, just to get these younger guys going, energized, bring their spirits up. I plan to be that guy.”
On both sides, Devin believes he’s closer than most people might think. Is he Trevor 2.0? No, but he can still be a pretty special player.
“I’m right there,” Devin said. “Right where I want to be. If I keep going hard every day like I’ve been doing, it’ll show in games.”