Booker making noise in the NBA

DALLAS - The four-year run of Trevor Booker for the Clemson Tigers was a successful one, but it's been his play as of late for the Washington Wizards that's turning heads nationally.

In 134 games the South Carolina native averaged 12.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. He also helped lead the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament (three consecutive years) while also earning first-team All-ACC honors during his senior season.

And no one who follows Clemson basketball was surprised when Booker went 23rd overall in the 2010 NBA Draft to Minnesota. The T-Wolves promptly traded his rights to Washington and in 65 games for the Wizards last year he averaged 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds. However, with a year of experience now under his belt, his numbers are way up in year two, especially since he's moved into the starting lineup.

In 44 games thus far, he's averaging nearly 9 points and 6 rebounds per game, while making 26 starts. He was also critical in Washington's win against the L.A. Lakers, when he scored 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds earlier this month.

CUTigers caught up with Booker recently before a Wizards game in Dallas to get his thoughts on his progression in the NBA, and also about the overall direction of Clemson basketball:

What was it like for you to come back for alumni weekend last month?
Booker: It was a great experience. I got to coach some of the former players. We had a good time. My team came out on top. It was definitely a good experience and then I got to see the basketball game against N.C. State. I got to see my little brother and the rest of the Tigers play.

How do you feel about the new staff there and the job they're doing?
Booker: New staff is great. I got a chance to talk to them. They actually worked me out a couple of times that first year there. Great group of guys and I think the program is on the rise right now with them being there.

How was coach Purnell able to impact you the most?
Booker: Well, Coach Purnell was a great coach. He's does a great job of building programs and he definitely helped Clemson. When I was there, he helped me in so many ways. He helped me get where I am today. We don't talk as much now but we still keep in touch though to see how each other is doing. I wish him nothing but the best.

Trevor Booker helped lead Clemson basketball to three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and was also a first-team All-ACC performer during his senior year. (Roy Philpott)
How do you view your time at Clemson?
Booker: Yeah, I love Clemson. I love the atmosphere, the fans, the school. I just had an overall great experience and I wouldn't change it for the world.

What was your favorite memory as a Tiger?
Booker: Probably just playing against Duke and how loud Littlejohn was after the win. Everybody rushed the court. It was so loud I couldn't hear. They were asking me questions after the game, ESPN was and I couldn't even hear the questions.

Being back at Littlejohn Coliseum earlier this season, how much do you miss playing there?
Booker: I miss it a lot, especially going back to the games and watching them play now. I miss it a whole bunch.

Since you're a native of the Palmetto State, was it a no-brainer that you'd come to Clemson or did you almost head elsewhere?
Booker: I was about to commit to South Carolina until Clemson came into the picture. I always wanted to play in the ACC. Growing up, I used to watch Carolina and Duke mostly but when the opportunity came for me to go to Clemson, I took it and I got to play against those guys.

How do you think your rookie year in the NBA went?
Booker: I think I had a pretty good year. The only downfall I had was breaking my foot. I didn't get to finish the season out but I'm coming back strong this year.

What was your biggest adjustment to the league last year?
Booker: I think just adjusting to the game. You thought you knew the game in college, but there's so much more to learn.

Did you have to endure any rookie rites of passage, so to speak?
Booker: Well, it wasn't too bad. I had to carry a couple of bags here and there. Some of the guys had to go buy some donuts to bring to the locker room but it wasn't too bad.

What did you do during the lockout?
Booker: Well, I went overseas for a month to play basketball. I ended up getting injured over there. So I had to come back home and rehab but it was still a good experience.

"I was about to commit to South Carolina until Clemson came into the picture. I always wanted to play in the ACC."

Where specifically did you play and how was your time abroad?
Booker: Israel, it was a great experience. Before I went over there, a lot of people were scared because all they had heard about was the bombings and all that. But once you get over there, you don't worry about any of it. It's actually pretty safe and it's definitely fun.

You're part of a young team with the Wizards ... and you've got some talent on this team. What's it been like this year for you?
Booker: Yeah, we have a young team. We've got a lot of learning to do but at the same time, I see us growing. We are learning every game. Oklahoma City started out they were real young and now look at them. So I can see us in their shoes one day.

What's been the biggest difference you've noticed this year, your second in the league, compared to last year when you were a rookie?
Booker: I'm getting more experience due to playing more, so the more experience I get, the more comfortable I feel on the court.

You and John Wall, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft were both rookies with the Wizards last year. Talk about how much you guys bonded.
Booker: Yeah, we bonded. I bonded with all the rookies last year. I actually bonded with everybody. I became close with everybody got a great chemistry and I feel very comfortable around these guys.

During your time at Clemson, those teams did pretty well. How tough has it been for you coming to a team like Washington who hasn't won all that much over the last year and a half?
Booker: It's definitely tough but at the same time, you've got to look at it. We have a young team and have a lot to learn. So as long as we can keep progressing, I think we'll be fine. Top Stories