BOZICH | Kentucky's Booker takes aim at another SEC honor -- and Travis Ford
COLUMBIA, S. C. (WDRB) – If you're searching for a statistical milestone other than 40-0 to follow for this Kentucky basketball team, Devin Booker is here to help.
Set your feet. Catch. Aim. Release. Follow through. Count it.
Don't forget the reload gesture. Booker has started to show the world that reload gesture every time a three-pointer goes in.
“They (the coaches) joke around with me about it,” Booker said. “I guess it's just something I do now.”
Yes, it is. Booker, a freshman, is shooting the three-point shot better than any Kentucky player has ever shot it – other than Travis Ford. But Ford's place in the UK record book is not secure.
The Wildcats defeated South Carolina, 58-43, Saturday at Colonial Life Arena. Booker had an average day.
You know what that means. For Booker, average is making half of his three-point attempts. He took four. He made two. That is Booker's average this season – 50 percent (36 of 72).
Booker led Kentucky with 18 points, making six of nine shots overall. He went to the line four times. He did not miss. He played 26 minutes without a turnover. It might not be enough to result in Booker being voted the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week for the third straight week. But he'll be in the discussion.
“Whewwww,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said, when asked about Booker's play. “Whewwww.”
I will argue that Booker's 50 percent season average from distance is misleading. This is why: Booker missed 10 of his first 11 three-pointers in November. After going 1 for 6 against Kansas, Booker has made 35 of his last 61 threes.
That's 57.4 percent. That number would make Klay Thompson blush. Well, almost.
If Booker keeps making shots the way he has for the last 16 games, he'll overtake Ford, who made 101 for 191 (52.9 percent) during the Wildcats surge to the 1993 Final Four for Rick Pitino.
This should be a fun week for Booker. On Thursday night the Wildcats play at Missouri. That's where Booker's father, Melvin, played. Mr. Booker earned recognition as the Big Eight player of the year in 1994.
He was only 6 feet 1, five inches shorter than his precocious son, but played parts of three seasons in the NBA and several years in Italy, Turkey and Russia.
Melvin Booker could shoot the three-point shot. But he could not shoot it as well as his son. Melvin Booker made 19 three-pointers as a Missouri freshman and needed 55 attempts.
Even as a senior, when Melvin Booker averaged 18.1 points, he made only 66 threes. Booker could make that many when the Wildcats move into the NCAA Tournament.
Booker said his father will be in Columbia, Missouri Thursday. Booker took two shots, scoring seven points, when the Wildcats beat Missouri, 86-37, Jan. 13. He smiled when asked about the rematch with Missouri.
“It's kind of like the one at Rupp,” Devin Booker said. “I'm kind of close with the coaching staff. They recruited me since the seventh or eighth grade. I still have love for Missouri because my Dad went there. I've been up there plenty of times. It's another game but obviously it's kind of a rivalry for me.”
Booker and Aaron Harrison are the guys that make it risky to defend Kentucky with a zone defense. After only 19 games, Booker has already built a dynamic rapport with Tyler Ulis, Kentucky's other freshman guard. Half of Booker's six field goals Saturday were the result passes from Ulis.
“We're really close, so we have great chemistry on and off the court,” Ulis said “I just try to find him.
“We came to school together. He gets the job done. He can shoot the ball. If I need an outlet, he's going to be there.”
Booker is going to be there and the chances are that he is going to score. His confidence is so unshakeable that Booker even laughed at a comment that Kentucky coach John Calipari made about him prior to the South Carolina game.
Calipari credited Booker with an airball, then a save and a pass to Aaron Harrison to set up the three-point shot late in the game that helped the Wildcats close out Vanderbilt Tuesday.
“The greatest play that was made was, my man (Booker) shoots an air ball by about, mmm, a foot and a half, and we save it,” Calipari said. “The ball goes back to (Booker). He's smart enough to throw it quickly to Aaron, who knows he's making it.”
Devin Booker wanted it stated on the record that his miss was not an air ball.
“It wasn't an air ball,” Booker said. “I have to clear that up. It was tipped. It was tipped. Most people don't know that. It's all good. He (Calipari) is behind me so it's good.”
It usually is good, especially when Devin Booker is parked at the three-point line.
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