Booker puts on a show at USA trials

June, 18, 2009
06/18/09
11:17
AM ET
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The World University Games' frontcourt tussles were rugged from the first day with Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado, Washington's Quincy Pondexter, Marquette's Lazar Hayward, Iowa State's Craig Brackins and even Purdue's Robbie Hummel banging consistently. But the most aggressive player and intimidating presence, maybe even more so than the slender shot-blocking Varnado, was Clemson's Trevor Booker.

Booker established himself as a force inside, making sure everyone who came into the lane knew that he was going to get bumped, blocked and bruised.

"He established himself as the physical guy,'' said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, who was courtside watching Booker. "He did distinguish himself.''

Booker could have easily declared for the NBA draft. Despite being given the dreaded undersized tag at 6-7, he would have been a likely high second-round pick.

"I knew I could have gone late first or early second, but I wanted to come back and improve my stock, get my name up there and finish school on time,'' Booker said.

The Tigers will be an interesting watch next season. The frontcourt will be fine with Booker back, but the backcourt took a hit when 3-point shooters K.C. Rivers (senior) and sophomore Terrence Oglesby (left for a European contract) split. Rivers made 69 3-point buckets last season and Oglesby made 92.

Booker said he anticipates he will be double-teamed quite a bit more next season, but Purnell said he was double-teamed even with Oglesby and Rivers in the lineup. Booker and Purnell are high on the potential 3-point shooting of David Potter (23 3s made), Demontez Stitt (18), Andre Young (30) and Tanner Smith (15). Add incoming freshman guard Donte Hill as another potential 3-point threat, too.

"We'll move him around,'' Purnell said of Booker. "We're not just going to keep in the post. He's a smallish post-up type guy. He can hit the 3, and I also like posting him on the elbow. He's a good passer, too. We'll have remedies for the double team."

Instead of dealing with the draft and summer league, Booker will be working on his craft (although on this team he won't be double-teamed) in the World University Games in Serbia (July 2-11).

"You can't pay for that type of preparation,'' Purnell said. "He's a pre-season all-ACC type guy, an all-American candidate. We think he's one of the best players in country that will anchor our team defensively and be our go-to guy in the middle."

• The SEC was the winner of the early-entry decisions -- with one clear exception.

Florida got hit the hardest when leading scorer and playmaker Nick Calathes opted to remain in the draft while Kentucky, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and South Carolina all got a key player back for next season.

Calathes' departure means the onus of putting the Gators back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since winning their second straight national title in 2007 falls on incoming freshman Kenny Boynton.

If he can be a playmaker for the Gators as he was at times during trials at the U.S. Olympic training center, Florida has a chance. Boynton was here trying out for the FIBA U.S. Under-19 team heading to New Zealand for the World Championships (July 2-11).

Boynton is an all-around guard, not necessarily a true point. He once scored 61 points in a City of Palms Tournament game with Pompano Beach High School in Florida, so it's in him to go off -- and with Calathes' absence, the Gators will be offensively challenged at times.

"I know this can benefit me being here,'' Boynton said. "I know what I need to work on. So far, I've been doing an OK job at the point. This is a good experience. Once I get to Gainesville then I'll have an idea at least of what I need to work on."

For the U.S. roster spot, Boynton was competing against Pitt's Ashton Gibbs, a backup point to Levance Fields last season, and West Virginia's Darryl Bryant. But there were plenty of players at the training center who can bring up the ball and jump start the offense like incoming Duke transfer Seth Curry, Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor, Butler's Shelvin Mack and stud, all-around athlete Terrico White of Ole Miss, who filled in for the injured Chris Warren at the position for most of last season. But Boynton did seem to be one of the most confident players handling the ball.

Boynton will team with Erving Walker, who averaged 10.1 points and 2.4 assists last season, in the backcourt. Incoming Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin will be on the wing and returning forwards Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons and Dan Werner will be the nucleus of the Gators as they try to get back to the NCAAs.

• The World University Games' frontcourt tussles were rugged from the first day with Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado, Washington's Quincy Pondexter, Marquette's Lazar Hayward, Iowa State's Craig Brackins and even Purdue's Robbie Hummel banging consistently. But the most aggressive player and intimidating presence, maybe even more so than the slender shot-blocking Varnado, was Clemson's Trevor Booker.

Booker established himself as a force inside, making sure anyone who came into the lane knew he would get bumped, blocked and bruised.

"He established himself as the physical guy,'' said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, who was courtside watching Booker. "He did distinguish himself.''

Booker could have easily declared for the NBA draft. Despite being given the dreaded undersized tag at 6-7, he would have been a likely high second-round pick.

"I knew I could have gone late first or early second, but I wanted to come back and improve my stock, get my name up there and finish school on time,'' Booker said.

The Tigers will be an interesting watch next season. The frontcourt is intact with seniors Booker and Raymond Sykes, but the backcourt took a hit when 3-point shooters K.C. Rivers (senior) and sophomore Terrence Oglesby (left for a European contract) split. Rivers made 69 3-pointers last season and Oglesby made 92.

Booker said he anticipates he will be double-teamed quite a bit more next season, but Purnell said he was double-teamed even with Oglesby and Rivers in the lineup. Booker and Purnell are high on the potential 3-point shooting of David Potter (23 3s made), Demontez Stitt (18), Andre Young (30) and Tanner Smith (15). Add incoming freshman guard Donte Hill as another potential 3-point threat, too.

"We'll move him around,'' Purnell said of Booker. "We're not just going to keep in the post. He's a smallish post-up type guy. He can hit the 3, and I also like posting him on the elbow. He's a good passer, too. We'll have remedies for the double team."

Instead of dealing with the draft and summer league, Booker will be working on his craft (although on this team he won't be double-teamed) in the World University Games in Serbia (July 2-11).

"You can't pay for that type of preparation,'' Purnell said. "He's a pre-season all-ACC type guy, an all-American candidate. We think he's one of the best players in country that will anchor our team defensively and be our go-to guy in the middle."

• The amazing thing about Drew Gordon's injury Tuesday night at the FIBA U-19 trials is how harmless it looked. Gordon was on a 3-on-0 drill when he pulled up lame. Gordon got ice on his right knee, and walked around the U.S. Olympic training facility the rest of the night, and then again Wednesday morning. There was no indication, initially, that he had a partial tear of his patellar tendon in his right knee -- Gordon never used crutches or even limped after the incident -- but that was the diagnosis Wednesday.

• Missouri coach Mike Anderson, who is working as a court coach during the three-day trials, wasn't pleased with the new rule that allows the opposing coach to pick a free-throw shooter from the remaining four players on the court if there is an injury to the player who gets fouled. The Tigers benefited from the previous rule in this season's NCAA tournament in which Kim English made two free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining in place of injured J.T. Tiller, and pushed Mizzou to a 83-79 second-round victory over Marquette. Anderson couldn't believe how this rule could be put in place, and can't imagine a scenario in which the opposing coach starts reaching for stats and making a selection off another team.

• Anderson knows everyone is going to assume the Tigers will take a hit with the departure of seniors DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence. But that's what he wants: for opposing teams to take the Tigers lightly. Mizzou's backcourt returns Tiller, English and Zaire Taylor. If the Tigers can get frontcourt help, look out because they will have one of the more experienced backcourts in the country.

• Nebraska is one of a handful of schools investigating taking on Kentucky players Kevin Galloway and/or Matt Pilgrim after they "departed" Lexington to allow UK to get down to the required maximum 13 scholarships. But the problem for Galloway and Pilgrim is that they are both juniors and would have only one season of eligibility remaining (Pilgrim already sat out last season after transferring from Hampton) under normal transfer rules. Schools like Nebraska probably won't take one or both players for just one season of eligibility. The hope is they would get a waiver to play right away, instead of sitting out the traditional residence requirement of one year. The unique situation here is if both players can prove it wasn't their choice to leave Kentucky, the NCAA may show leniency in granting immediate eligibility.

• Gonzaga has a hole to fill now after Austin Daye's decision to stay in the NBA Draft, but coach Mark Few isn't shying away from another highly respected nonconference schedule. The Zags will play in the Maui Invitational with Maryland as the other marquee team (don't sleep on Arizona early either), host rival Wazzu, face Oklahoma and Wake Forest at the Kennel in Spokane, Wash., go to Memphis and Michigan State, draw Duke at Madison Square Garden and play Illinois at the United Center in Chicago. The Illini series is a four-year deal with the next game in Seattle, then to Champaign, Ill., in the third year and back to the Kennel in the fourth.

• Forget the million-dollar salaries for a minute. Few, Anderson, Michigan's John Beilein and Arizona State's Herb Sendek didn't flinch when they were told that the court coaches must stay in the dorms at the Olympic training facility, instead of at a Marriott hotel with the selection committee and staffs of the World University Games and U-19 team. The living quarters were your basic dorm room: four concrete walls, a sink, a mini-fridge, a TV and a communal bathroom.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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