North Carolina Tar Heels: Devin Booker

Class of 2014's best shooters 

May, 6, 2014
May 6
10:30
AM ET
Though the top three prospects in the Class of 2014 are big men who control the paint, there are several outstanding shooters in the class. Let’s examine the five best shooters among the incoming freshmen and one from the Class of 2015.

1. Justin Jackson, North Carolina
He started out as a 3-point shooter but has developed into a master of the mid-range jump shot. Most outstanding shooters are confident and comfortable from a certain spot on the floor, but that’s not the case with Jackson. He is equally effective and productive from a catch-and-shoot scenario as he is putting the ball on the deck and rising up to finish inside the arc or in the paint. A combination of length, balance and extension with a feathery touch will make him hard to defend.


The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

McDonald's game matchups to watch 

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
7:00
PM ET

The McDonald's All American Game is annually the nation's most prestigious high school basketball all-star event. The rosters have been announced for the Class of 2014, and this year's game will once again be played at the United Center in Chicago and will air live on ESPN on April 2.

Here's a deeper look at five exciting matchups we'll see in the 2014 contest.

1. The battle of the giants
Jahlil Okafor (West) vs. Myles Turner (East)


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Biancardi’s Breakdown: Best for '14 

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
9:00
AM ET
Basketball is played right through the new year, so as we look back and plan ahead let’s take a look halfway through this season at which 2014 prospects have performed best in 14 categories.

1. Best in the low post: Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young), Duke signee
If a team needs to score a basket in the lower half of the painted area, Okafor is the one to pass it to. He has secure hands to catch almost any pass and a soft touch with superb footwork. He also has a wide mobile body to seal his man and the patience to throw the ball back out and re-post his 7-foot-3 wing span.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Video: Elite 24 slam dunk/3-point recap

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
11:12
AM ET
Devin Booker took home the 3-point contest title and UNC commit Theo Pinson brought the house down in the Under Armour Slam Dunk competition by dunking over his mom.

Conference Power Rankings: ACC

March, 1, 2013
3/01/13
7:30
AM ET
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski often has said he doesn’t believe in revenge games. But after losing at Miami by 27 points in January, and getting beaten at Virginia on Thursday night, is there much doubt there will be some extra, er, motivation for the Blue Devils when they host the Hurricanes on Saturday? In the meantime, here's an attempt at this week’s ACC power rankings:

1. Miami: The now-No.-5 Hurricanes bounced back from their first ACC loss of the season (by 15 points at Wake Forest) by beating up on Virginia Tech. Since then, they’ve been able to focus on the game everyone’s been talking about: Saturday’s rematch with Duke: "It's going to be a blast," guard Trey McKinney Jones said, according to The Associated Press. "We beat them here this year, and we beat them there last year, so they're going to be gunning for our heads."

2. Duke: Plus, the No. 3 Blue Devils should be especially fired up after shooting worse than 40 percent and never leading during the 73-68 loss at Virginia on Thursday. Forward Ryan Kelly, sidelined since January with a foot injury, returned to practice this week, but isn’t expected back until after Saturday’s game.

3. Virginia: Nothing like beating the No. 3 team in the nation to bolster your NCAA tournament hopes. Joe Harris scored a career-high 36 points and teammate Akil Mitchell added a double-double Thursday night as the Cavs toppled the Blue Devils and remained tied for third place in the ACC standings.

4. North Carolina: The Tar Heels are now 4-1 since they went to a four-guard starting lineup, and as their momentum grows, so does their NCAA tournament résumé. UNC secured another 20-win season with Thursday night’s victory at Clemson, and junior Reggie Bullock has averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds the past two games.

5. NC State: The Wolfpack bounced back from their loss at UNC by blasting Boston College, securing back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since Herb Sendek was coach. Next up: a trip to Georgia Tech, with an eye on trying to work back into the top four of the conference standings. State now stands in fifth place, a game behind the Cavs and Tar Heels.

6. Maryland: The Terps are 1-6 on the road in conference play after losing at Georgia Tech, with their only ACC road win coming at last-place Virginia Tech. They still travel to Wake Forest and Virginia, and play UNC at home, during the regular season, but Maryland’s at-large NCAA tournament bid hopes are diminishing.

7. Florida State: The Seminoles remain the worst rebounding team in the league (31.3 per game) but could get a boost when 6-foot-8 Terrance Shannon -- who suffered a neck injury on Jan. 19 but has been cleared to play -- returns. FSU beat Wake Forest earlier this week, but has still lost four of its past six games.

8. Wake Forest: After scoring 23 points en route to a court-storming win over then-No. 2 Miami, Demon Deacon C.J. Harris made only one field goal, and finished with nine points, in a loss at Florida State. So continue Wake Forest’s road woes. As some consolation, two of its final three games are at home.

9. Georgia Tech: Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory called his team’s win over Maryland earlier this week the most consistent 40 minutes of basketball it has played this season. Freshman forward Robert Carter Jr. posted his fourth double-double; and at 15-12 with three games left, Tech is guaranteed at least a .500 regular-season finish.

10. Clemson: Even with double-doubles from big men Milton Jennings and Devin Booker, the Tigers couldn’t outmatch the Tar Heels’ smaller starting lineup. Thursday’s defeat marked Clemson’s third consecutive loss and sixth in its last seven games, as the Tigers continue to struggle to score.

11. Boston College: It was a tough week on Tobacco Road for the Eagles, who followed a 21-point loss at Duke with an 18-point loss at NC State. Ryan Anderson averaged 17.5 points in the two defeats.

12. Virginia Tech: The Hokies snapped a nine-game losing streak by besting FSU, only to lose at Miami. The Canes held senior guard/nation's-leading-scorer Erick Green to 16 points, only the second time during the conference season that he’s failed to score at least 22.

A Closer Look: UNC 68, Clemson 59

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
9:37
PM ET
North Carolina’s smaller lineup continues to come up big.

The Tar Heels (20-8, 10-5 ACC) won their fourth consecutive game Thursday night, 68-59 at Clemson, and are now 4-1 since coach Roy Williams opted to insert 6-foot-5 P.J. Hairston into the lineup for 6-11 Desmond Hubert. And UNC continued to show signs that it’s all starting to come together -- and at the right time.

Senior guard Dexter Strickland, looking healthier and healthier as the season has progressed, led the Tar Heels with 16 points. Point guard Marcus Paige continued to show more confidence in his offense, finishing with 10 points and four assists. And Reggie Bullock did a little bit of everything yet again, recording 12 points, 6 assists and 9 rebounds.

A closer look at the Tar Heels’ victory at Littlejohn Coliseum:

Turning point: The score was knotted 18-18 with about 10 minutes to go in the first half when UNC broke away with a 12-2 run. Reserve Leslie McDonald jump-started it with back-to-back 3-pointers, Hairston added a 3, and forward James Michael McAdoo added a three-point play to give the Tar Heels a 30-20 lead.

The Tar Heels didn’t play a particularly pretty second half, as the Tigers outrebounded them and clawed to within seven points with a minute left in the game. But UNC’s cushion was plenty, especially against a foe that has struggled to score this season.

“Well, we’re happy to get an ACC win on the road,'' Williams said. "There’s no question about that. But boy, we finished the game about as ugly as you can finish it. We missed some free throws. They outrebounded us by 14 in the second half, and they ended up outrebounding us by nine for the game. You can’t have that and be very good. We got sloppy."

Players(s) of the game: Strickland made 7 of his 9 shot attempts and also added 3 rebounds and 4 assists.

Forwards Devin Booker (25 points, 11 rebounds) and Milton Jennings (12 points, 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles for the Tigers (13-14, 5-10).

What it means for UNC: Security. Beating a team with an RPI near the mid-100s might not exactly turbocharge the Tar Heels’ ever-strengthening NCAA résumé, but a loss likely would have hurt.

The victory kept the Tar Heels even with Virginia (which upset No. 3 Duke later Thursday night) for third place in the ACC standings; the top four seeds earn a first-day bye in the upcoming league tournament.

What it means for Clemson: More growing pains. Entering the game, the Tigers ranked last in the ACC in scoring (61.8 points per game) and 10th in field-goal percentage (42.6). And they were not helped by the fact that starter K.J. McDaniels, one of only two Tigers averaging double figures (10.7 ppg), sat out Thursday due to an ankle injury. The Tigers shot 39.7 percent for the game.

Etc.: The victory secured UNC’s 40th 20-win season in the last 43 years. … UNC reserve big man Joel James, who had missed four straight games because of a concussion, returned and played two minutes.

Up next: Clemson plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday; UNC hosts Florida State on Sunday.

UNC at Clemson: What to watch

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
9:00
AM ET
Clemson is 5-9 in the ACC. But North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose team faces the Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum on Thursday night, knows better than to take that record at face value -- especially with the way Clemson has been playing at home.

“I’ve watched those two [games] where they lose to Miami on a last-second shot and lose to NC State on a last-second shot; you flip those two games and it’s a whole different scenario for them," Williams said. “They have played very well at home. They’ve had some tough losses at home and on the road. They’ve played a lot of people really close.”

Indeed, three of the Tigers’ past four games have been decided by three or fewer points: on Feb. 10, they lost to NC State 58-57; four days later, they won at Georgia Tech by a point; and three days after that, they lost to then-No. 3 Miami 45-43. And they’ve played at lot better at Littlejohn, where they are averaging almost 11 more points per game and holding foes to about nine fewer points than on the road.

A few things to watch:

UNC’S LITTLE GUY

It’s been fun, watching Tar Heels freshman point guard Marcus Paige gain his footing -- and confidence. Over UNC’s past three wins, the 6-foot, 157-pound ball handler has averaged 13 points, 5.3 assists and only 1.3 turnovers.

Williams likes to call him a “tough little nut,” and perhaps most importantly, he’s been getting tougher. “That’s just going through ACC play, learning from it," Paige said recently.

CLEMSON’S BIG GUYS

It’s been an inconsistent season for forward Milton Jennings, who has yet to post back-to-back double-digit scoring games this season. He does tend to play well against UNC, though, averaging 9.6 ppg in five meetings.

Fellow senior Devin Booker, though, has been solid in ACC play, averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. He’s posted double figures in five of the Tigers’ past six games -- including two double-doubles.

ETC.

Clemson freshman guard Jordan Roper has averaged 12.3 points over his teams past six contests, including 36 total points in the Tigers’ past two home games, against NC State and Miami. … UNC has committed only 26 turnovers in its past three games, all wins. … Tar Heels sophomore P.J. Hairston is averaging 18.5 points and 6 rebounds since he was inserted into the starting lineup; UNC is now 3-1 since it went to a four-guard opening five. … North Carolina leads the series 126-20.

Conference Power Rankings: ACC

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
7:30
AM ET
With roughly two weeks left in the regular season, the race is on for a top-four seed (and first-day bye) in the ACC tournament. In the meantime, here are this week's rankings based on myriad factors, including how teams have performed lately and the foes they've faced:

1. Miami. Clemson and Virginia both tested the Canes, but a late 3-pointer from Kenny Kadji at the Tigers and Reggie Johnson's tiebreaking layup versus the Cavs kept Miami undefeated in league play. The 13-0 record marks the hottest league start since Duke went 16-0 en route to the conference title in 1998-99.

2. Duke. The Devils bounced back from a close loss at Maryland with a blowout win at Virginia Tech as Mason Plumlee followed a four-point, three-rebound performance with a double-double Thursday night. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is now third on the career list for victories at one school (877), behind Dean Smith and Jim Boeheim.

3. NC State. The Wolfpack got a big boost by inserting 6-foot-8 T.J. Warren into the starting lineup this week. Not only did he turn in a 31-point, 13-rebound performance against FSU, but the team grabbed a season-best 45 boards. The Pack have won three straight, and it will be interesting to see whether they stay big against the Tar Heels this weekend.

4. North Carolina. Coach Roy Williams continues to start a smaller lineup with sophomore P.J. Hairston at the 4, and the Tar Heels continue to look faster and more aggressive with another scorer on the floor. Forward James Michael McAdoo's double-double at Georgia Tech, after he scored in single digits for three straight games, is a good sign, too.

5. Virginia. The Cavs are in the midst of a tough stretch. They lost at both UNC and No. 2 Miami in the past week, play a Georgia Tech team this weekend that beat them earlier this month, and then face another test in No. 6 Duke coming up next week. Junior Joe Harris, though, continues to be on a tear, averaging 22.4 points over his past five games.

6. Maryland. Another (way) up and (way) down week for the Terps, who upset the then-second-ranked Blue Devils at home, only to lose on the road to a focused Boston College team that had won just three previous ACC games. After posting an impressive 19-point, nine-rebound game against Mason Plumlee, Maryland big man Alex Len managed only four points against the Eagles.

7. Florida State. For all his last-second shots this season, Seminoles point guard Michael Snaer hadn’t managed 20 points against an ACC foe this year, until this week. He followed a 21-point game in a win against Boston College with 20 during a loss at NC State. Next up: a trip to Virginia Tech.

8. Clemson. Another week, another home heartbreaker for the Tigers, who lost to Miami on Kadji’s 3 after losing to NC State on a Scott Wood 3 on Feb. 10. At least they won a close one in the middle at Georgia Tech. Devin Booker posted his fifth double-double of the season in Clemson’s latest loss.

9. Georgia Tech. Freshman Robert Carter Jr. hit two free throws in the final 10 seconds to beat Wake Forest before Georgia Tech lost by double figures to the Tar Heels. The Yellow Jackets were an ouch-worthy 4-for-11 from the free throw line in their latest game and remain the worst foul-shooting team in the league (63.2 percent).

10. Boston College. And to build on the above note about the importance of free throws: The Eagles hit 16 straight down the stretch to protect the lead in their win over Maryland. Freshman Olivier Hanlan scored a career-high 26 points in that game, and BC has won two of its past three.

11. Wake Forest. A three-point loss at Boston College followed by a one-point loss to Georgia Tech? The bottom tier of the ACC likes to make things interesting, at least. The Deacs are second in the league in steals, sandwiched between UNC and Duke, and C.J. Harris continues to lead the team with 14.8 points per game.

12. Virginia Tech. Erick Green is still really good, adding a 22-point game against Duke to his nation-leading scoring average. His team still is struggling, though, losing nine in a row -- including two in overtime and Thursday's loss to the Blue Devils.

Conference Power Rankings: ACC

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
7:30
AM ET
Can we just call places 3 through 6 a tie? After the first week of ACC play, it’s harder than ever to judge the middle of the league pack. But here are this week’s ACC Power Rankings, based on myriad factors, including how teams have performed lately and the foes they've faced:

1. Duke. Still undefeated, still No. 1 after victories over Wake Forest and Clemson. But the Blue Devils will be tested Saturday not only by an NC State team that has won nine in a row, but by playing without senior forward Ryan Kelly, who is out indefinitely with an injured right foot.

2. NC State. The Wolfpack was picked to win the ACC during the preseason by both media and coaches, and Saturday’s home game against the Blue Devils will show if it has what it takes to make that push. Lorenzo Brown, with 21 points against Georgia Tech, was the latest to lead his team in scoring. Who’s next?

3. Miami. The Hurricanes have never started 2-0 in the ACC -- until now. Senior forward Kenny Kadji had 18 points to help break his team’s 10-game losing streak to UNC on Thursday night, and sixth-year senior Julian Gamble (14 points against the Tar Heels) has been filling in admirably for the injured Reggie Johnson.

4. Maryland. Dez Wells had a bad shooting night, Alex Len at times got pushed around, and the Terps saw their 13-game winning streak snapped via a 12-point comeback by Florida State. Whether they bounce back at Miami this weekend could be a good indication of whether they’re a top-tier ACC team.

5. Florida State. Junior forward Okaro White has come up big during the Seminoles’ 2-0 ACC start, averaging 17.5 points and 8 rebounds. And so has his team. "We sat down, the juniors and seniors, with the young guys and told them we have to stop talking, and we have to show them how hard you have to play,’’ White told Tallahassee.com.

6. Virginia. Beat North Carolina, only to lose to Wake Forest? It might be that sort of topsy-turvy season for the Cavs, who should get more and more of a boost as senior guard Jontel Evans, who returned from injury last weekend, gets more and more back in sync with the offense.

7. North Carolina. Coach Roy Williams said his team was stressed in the locker room after losing to Miami on Thursday night. And for good reason: This marks only the fourth time UNC has ever started 0-2 in the ACC, and things won’t get any easier at Florida State on Saturday.

8. Boston College. The Eagles have now won six of their past seven games, and gave NC State a scare in their only loss since Dec. 4. Sophomore Lonnie Jackson has posted double digit points for three consecutive games, including a season-high 22 at Virginia Tech.

9. Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets had a six-game winning streak broken by the start of ACC play. Tech is shooting just 35.2 percent during its 0-2 conference start.

10. Wake Forest. Despite shooting just 26 percent after halftime and failing to score a field goal for the final 10 minutes, the Deacs survived Virginia’s comeback attempt. “We stayed with it,” Wake Forest forward Travis McKie told The Times-News. “I think early in the season we would’ve put our head down and had a pity party. But we stayed with it and continued to fight hard.” Wake has now won five of seven games.

11. Clemson. The Tigers scored only 10 points, on just 12 percent shooting, in the first half at Duke on Wednesday. Yikes. Devin Booker has posted two double-doubles in Clemson’s 0-2 ACC start.

12. Virginia Tech. Already-undermanned Tech was down to six scholarship players during its midweek loss to BC, thanks to illness and injury. Erick Green continues to lead the nation in scoring, but the Hokies have now lost four in a row, and are 0-2 in ACC play.

Conference Power Rankings: ACC

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
9:00
AM ET
Would the fourth-best team in the league please raise your collective hand? Or at least, your level of play? One more attempt to rank the ACC squads before conference competition (finally) begins this week. As always, feel free to debate or weigh in:

1. North Carolina: Blowout wins against Elon and Monmouth certainly don't help UNC’s RPI. But then again, its ACC opener against Boston College next weekend probably won’t, either. Forward John Henson continues to average a double-double, plus a league-leading 3.2 blocks per game.

2. Duke: After a 40-point win over Western Michigan followed by a 30-point win over Penn, the Devils have one more road game, at Temple on Wednesday, to gear up for league play. Rookie Austin Rivers continues to lead the team -- and the ACC Rookie of the Year race -- with 15.4 ppg.

3. Virginia: The Cavs, who have won 10 straight, should get a good pre-conference test Monday night in Baton Rouge, where they will face an LSU team that has won seven straight by holding its competition to fewer than 60 points per game.

4. Virginia Tech: The Hokies have now beaten Oklahoma State twice this season, the second time snapping the Cowboys’ 37-game home winning streak against nonconference foes. Tech has won six in a row entering its ACC opener at Wake Forest on Saturday.

5. N.C. State: Scoring depth could be an issue come conference play, but the Wolfpack’s starting five sure knows how to keep things interesting. Lorenzo Brown leads the league in steals at 2.1 per game.

6. Florida State: For the second time this season, the Seminoles lost to an Ivy League school -- this time to Princeton in triple overtime. With six scholarship seniors on the team, FSU should be showing more motivation.

7. Miami: The Hurricanes haven’t lost since forward Reggie Johnson returned, and trail only Duke in the league in 3-pointers made per game (8.3). Malcolm Grant is the team’s leader (and the ACC co-leader) in that category with 2.8 made per game.

8. Maryland: Center Alex Len made an alley-oop dunk in the opening minute of his college debut against Albany -- a sign of good things to come for the Terps? He’s averaging 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds after two games, and Maryland has won six straight.

9. Wake Forest: Led by C.J. Harris (18.7 ppg), the Deacs have already won nine games this season, one more than 2010-11. They’ve won three straight, but are still tied for last in the league in rebounding margin, at minus-5 per game.

10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets’ latest loss was at Fordham, which only managed one victory in the Atlantic 10 last season. One problem: Tech can’t seem to hold on to the ball, as its turnover margin is minus-3 per game.

11. Clemson: Forwards Milton Jennings and Devin Booker are combining to average only about three more points per game than last season. More was expected.

12. Boston College: The Eagles managed only three points (all on free throws) in the final 8:32 of their loss to Harvard, and the point-less stretches are becoming a theme for young BC. Boston College is averaging a league-worst 61 ppg.

Robbi Pickeral can be reached at bylinerp@gmail.com. Twitter: @bylinerp.

SPONSORED HEADLINES