One on one with Devin Booker

While the front court has been deemed a priority for Duke in the class of 2014, there's always a need for top flight scorers on the wing. Accordingly, the Blue Devils are beginning to track and recruit one of 2014's top scoring guards. TDD sat down with Moss Point (Miss.) five star scoring guard Devin Booker to get the latest update.

TDD: How has the season gone for you?

Devin Booker: It started out kind of slow because we are a really young team with a number of sophomores, but it's picked up lately as we've gotten more experience.

How does your role change as an upperclassman?

That's helped me a lot, really. Last year we had seven young guys on the roster, and now guys are looking up to me. It's a lot different from last year. Last year, when I wasn't ranked or anything, not many people knew about me or my game. Now it's totally difference and every game there are people there to see me, and coaches are doubling and sometimes triple teaming me. The most important thing is to help my teammates and my team. We are all getting better each game.

How are you handling the increased attention on the court and off of it?

I try not to really think about it because I'm in a great position to be highly recruited. During the season the only thing that matters is to work hard to get wins, which is the best feeling.

Who has helped you develop your overall game?

Definitely my dad. He played in college and then he played professionally overseas. He played in Russia for five years, then Turkey for five years as well. He also played for the Rockets and Nuggest in the NBA.

Did that require you to move around a lot as a child?

Not really. My parents are separated, so I lived in Michigan with my mom. Now that my dad is retired, he wanted me to be with him during my high school career so he could help me in my development. So I moved down here to Mississippi with him.

How challenging is it to be trained by a former professional athlete, who is also your dad?

It's definitely tough sometimes because he's so detailed with everything. He demands a lot from me at all times. It's also really helped me a lot, and it's a blessing to have a father that has played professionally, because he's seen things you haven't. It's something a lot of players don't have going for them. He gets on me the hardest out of anybody because he knows where I want to go, so I just take it all as a big blessing.

What is his take on the recruiting process?

He gives me the honest truth about schools, but he'll also make sure that at the end of the day it's my decision. A lot of people as me if I'm going to Missouri since that is where he went to school. Missouri has been recruiting me for a while, but he doesn't care where I go so long as I'm happy. He has told me it's my choice and he's there to just help me along the way, but he says it's part of being a man to make, and live with your decisions.

When did you start playing basketball?

It's been as long as I can remember. I have an older brother who is four years older than me. That helps because he would never let me win when we were younger. He pushed me all the time to become a better player. Honestly, basketball was just something that I picked up, and I have a real love of this game.

There have been a number of stories about your take on academics, are you in AP classes already?

Yes. The school I went to in Michigan was way ahead of the school I'm at now in Mississippi, so that's why I'm taking some advanced classes. I've got straight A's right now, and nothing under a 95 average. I've also taken the SAT once, and will be taking it again to get a better score.

Sounds like you're a balanced student athlete…

Well, growing up, my mom had three kids and worked really hard for us. I didn't want to cause her any problems on the side, so I made sure I always did what she asked me to do. That included knocking out my school work every day and studying with my brother. I've always tried to advance myself on the court and in the classroom.

So, which field are you interested in studying in college?

I don't really know right now. I've looked into computer science a lot, though. Technology is so big these days, and that would be a good degree to pursue. I haven't really sat down and talked to anyone about it, but that is something I need to do.

How are you evaluating the programs recruiting you on an academic basis?

Well, mosts of the schools will help you with tutoring and the classroom demands. I don't really want to be at a school that is only about basketball. I want to be around smart people who take good classes. I want the program to have good academic support and tutors as well.

From what you've seen so far, how have the academics been presented?

I've been on five visits so far, and they all took me around the whole campus to see different things. At Michigan State, I got to see their academic center, and at Michigan I saw theirs as well. It seems lil every college has top notch facilities.

Where else have you visited?

I've been to Missouri three times, Michigan three times, and Michigan State once. I've also been to Mississippi State and Alabama as well. Michigan State was the most recent visit.

How much are you hearing from head coaches?

Right now I am hearing from a lot of the head coaches, but assistants will also hit me up on a day to day basis. Lately, though, a lot of the phone calls have been with the head coaches.

How would you characterize the relationships with those coaches?

I've got a better relationship with those coaches I had a chance to meet face to face on the visits. I'm also working on developing good relationships with the coaches who are starting to recruit me. They will all text me a lot and ask me what I think about their teams and how my team is doing.

Who are the new schools getting involved?

Well, Duke is new. They are getting more involved from around Christmas or so. Florida is also started to get involved a lot more.

Can you describe Duke's interest so far?

We were in a tournament during the holidays and I got a text message from Coach Nate James. We kept texting back and forth a lot, and he kept saying that the first week that Coach K was going to be calling me. Since then Coach K and I have talked two or three times, and I've texted with Coach James on a day to day basis.

What is the message from Duke?

They both have been saying that Duke is a great place for shooters, and with me being a shooting guard, Coach Nate said he thinks an offer is going to come my way sometime soon.

What about Coach K?

With Coach K, I have to say, he's a really cool guy. You never think before you talk to him that he could be like that, but he's just really cool. He did tell me that Duke is a good place for shooting guards, and he felt that I was a good fit since I'm a shooter.

What is your initial reaction to Duke's pitch?

I like it. Growing up, Duke has always been a powerhouse. They are a legendary program that always has really good players. I want to go to a school that wins and Duke wins a lot. They also get their shooters open looks, and that's a really good thing for me. I have to say I like them.

Has Coach K extended an offer yet?

No, they haven't offered yet. They are still evaluating everything.

Are they trying to get you to Durham for a visit?

I think he said we'll schedule something for after my high school season and before my AAU season. I think that's when i'm going to get up there.

Which AAU team are you running with this summer?

I'm playing with Alabama Challenge again. It's the same team I played with last year on the Nike EYBL circuit. The EYBL is the best circuit for sure.

Do you have a lot of friends in the EYBL?

Yeah I have a lot. This year i also went to LeBron and Kevin Durant Camps and I also was in the Elite 100 Camp. I built friendships there. I'm good friends with DeAngelo Russell, Matt Jones, Wayne Selden, there's been a lot.

I heard Matt Jones is quite the recruiter, does he talk with you about Duke much?

Actually during the summer when we around each other a lot, Duke wasn't recruiting me at that point, so we didn't talk too much about it then. We don't talk on an every day basis, we talk mostly at the camps.

You mentioned Florida as coming on as well, can you shed some light on their contact with you?

It's been Coach Pelphery a lot, he's been to a couple games. Coach Donovan and Pelphery came to one game together, but it's been picking up a lot more recently after it had fallen off before after the summer. During the season, they give me my space and I give them space because I know they are focusing on their team right now. I respect that because if I was in college, I would want my coach focusing on his team to help us win. Not being out every day working on high school kids.

Being new to the process, where do you rank Duke and Florida on the interest scale?

Right now I'm giving everyone a fair shot. Obviously those schools that I've visited and been face to face with the coaches have a good relationship because you can only say so much over the phone. I feel that it's important to go to campus, see the game atmosphere, sit down with the coaches, walk around campus, that gives you more interest in the school.

Are you going to take a visit to Florida too?

It's kinda the same situation as Duke. They said after my season to come down just like there's a lot of schools I'm hoping to visit during the spring/summer. I'm going to have to sit down with my dad about that because there's a lot. I'm trying to enjoy the process and that's a big part of it.

Will you take advantage of the new rule that lets you take officials early?

If i sit down with my parents and cut my list down that's something I may do, but right now I'm not able to do that because there's so many schools recruiting me. Nothing is set in stone related to officials, and I'll know more once I sit down and cut down to a list.

Is there a plan in place as to when you are cutting things down?

Nothing is set in stone right now, but I definitely think by my senior year. I need to cut it down because there's so many schools recruiting me. It'll probably be cut down right before classes start.

Do you have to visit a school unofficially in order to consider them for an official visit?

I don't really know. I haven't thought about that. As long as I get to schools and spend time up there, I think it'll be fine.

What other factors are you evaluating as you determine your fit at a school?

There's definitely things I look at. I want to be able to play when I get there. I don't want anything handed to me, and I want to work for it. But if the guard spots are all the way full that'll be hard. If i can go in there and work hard and have a chance to compete for a spot, that'll be good with me.

How many teams are you watching on TV this season?

It's hard because during the season, because we're busy and we're traveling a lot. I'd like to catch more. I check scores, stats, highlights as much as I can.

Are there any other schools you are planning on visiting outside of Florida and Duke?

I think i'm supposed to go back up to Michigan State at some point, but nothing is set in stone. I'd like to get out to Stanford too if possible.

How much does conference affiliation play in your evaluation of schools?

I really want to play in a tough conference against the best competition, and with a team who is on TV a lot.

Is it your desire to go pro as fast as possible or are you on a different schedule?

I haven't really thought about it. Whenever I feel like I'm ready, I'm going. That's why i'm hoping for a coach who gives me an opportunity to compete to play, I'm definitely not shooting to be one and done though. If i think i'm ready and if the coach feels like I'm ready, that's when I think I'll go.

Are there any schools that aren't involved now that you are hoping to get involved?

Not right now. If a new school wants to come in of course i'll be open to hearing from them, and I'll evaluate them. If they want me to come up and visit I'll look at that. Everybody is on an even playing field with me.

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