One on one with Devin Booker

After returning home from his trip down Tobacco Road, Mississippi prep standout Devin Booker has had time to reflect and think about all he saw and picked up. Over the weekend he sat down with TDD to share his thoughts.

Now that the high school season is over for you--can you talk about how the mentality changes for you as you prepare for AAU ball?

Devin Booker: Yeah, it's going to be really different this year. Going into last year I was trying to prove a point since I wasn't ranked, and I wasn't rated by any website. I was playing against guys who were ranked, and I had a chip on my shoulder.

Going into this year, I know guys are going to be in that same place since I'm viewed as one of the best now, and so I'm going to be ready every night for that. I got that from high school, with the double and triple teams, and I had to get ready for that. Guys are trying to move up and I'm trying to move up too.

How do you prepare for that role reversal?

It's taken a lot of training. Like throughout my high school season, I had to work in games on different shots because of the defenses we were playing, me and my dad worked on a lot, game-like situations. I'm just out there to play my best, to get ready for college and the next level. I do want to make the All Star Games next year so while I don't pay attention to the rankings, I know it does play a part in that.

Sounds like you've got some goals--have you written them down somewhere?

I haven't written anything down, but those are definitely a couple. I want to make the All Star Games. I want to be the top shooting guard by the time it's over. I'm second or third right now. Making the Jordan and McDonald's games. I've been watching those games for a long time, ever since I started playing AAU.

Speaking of rankings and attention--what got you interested in wanting to do the visits to UNC and Duke at this point?

It's something I really had the only chance I could get to. My dad and I were talking about how good a thing it is to visit all the schools back to back to back. we had time before AAU to actually come up there.

So you are on the plane heading to NC--what's going through your mind?

It wasn't on the plane where it really hit me, it was actually when I first walked in to North Carolina with the coaches and I realized, "this is like a dream, I'm visiting two of the best colleges in the country with UNC and Duke".

I found myself getting comfortable as the conversations were going on, like at first I'm saying to myself, "wow, I'm sitting here talking with Roy Williams and Coach K", but then I got comfortable after awhile. We just had good conversations, just like anybody else.

How did UNC structure the visit for you?

We met first with Coach Robinson and we were in the lounge area before the game and Coach Williams came in and talked to me real briefly just before the game. When Coach Roy left to get ready for the game, Coach Robinson took me around campus and to the Museum. That was probably one of my favorite things on the UNC visit…just seeing all the history with Jordan and Final Fours and National Championships. After that, it was close to game time, I was in the locker room before the game so I got to see Roy get the team ready for the game, then the game started.

What were your thoughts on the game day atmosphere?

Oh man, the atmosphere was crazy! When I first walked out and saw everything, I was like "Wow", it was packed out in the gym, people were going crazy since they were playing NC State.

How about thoughts on the game?

I liked it. It was an intense atmosphere, and a great game. I liked how Coach Roy got his team ready before the game and then they went and got a great win.

What did you think of the guards were utilized?

I actually thought I could fit in. I saw plays drawn up for shooters, and Hairston hit a couple threes. I liked to see that, being a shooter. Bullock got hot, he ran off the screens and got good looks, as a shooter, that's what I like to see.

The change in lineup to a more guard oriented offense--how much conversation did you have with Coach Williams about that?

Coach Roy just said they needed to get the best players on the court which could be a good thing for me too. He said that he needs to have the best guys on the court, no matter what position.

What happened after the game?

That's when I went up with Coach Williams to his office, and he showed me around there and around the facility some more. That was good that I got to talk to Coach Roy for like an hour.

Which topics did you guys cover?

He talked about how I fit in with the system, and how he would use me in the offense. Coach Roy is real cool and he was showing me the pictures in his office and all the cool people's met and things he's done.

Did he discuss an offer at all?

Coach Roy said that he doesn't throw offers out there and he likes to get to know guys first and develop a relationship, he wants to get players to get to know him. He said he hadn't seen me in awhile so he wanted to come down and see me some more including in AAU.

Let's switch gears to the Duke visit now…

I actually met that same night with the Duke coaches because they said they were going to be really busy during the day the next day because of the earlier game.

They said we'd have time to see the facility during the day. That night, they showed me around. The new practice facility they have, it's really nice and then we spent some time in the film room watching a video of stars they have had before and how they fit in the offense, which is good to see. Then that's actually when Coach K offered.

How did he present the offer?

He said he felt like this would be a good place for me and they would like to see me here and if I ever feel the same way about it, to tell them.

One of the things you hear a lot is Coach K waits to offer a player until after he's seen them in person--did he bring that up with you?

He said he had seen me in the summertime, but it's mostly been assistant coaches to see me during high school. He said he's watched a lot of film of me, and Coach Capel had asked for a lot of my film. Coach K said he felt like I was a good guy, with good grades and he said that's really important at Duke.

What was his pitch regarding your potential role at Duke?

He said a little bit about how Seth Curry is playing. I'd have the ball a little bit in my hands, and I'd play off the ball too. He wants me to be a shooter, and stuff like that.

People always compare my game to Seth and Stephen Curry which is cool, I'm bigger than Seth by several inches. Plus, Seth is hurt right now, we've all seen him play even better than he's playing now, he was balling out before he was injured. It's a good comparison though.

What do you think about the conversation about you being just a shooter or an athlete who can shoot?

That's something I'm working on this summer because I do think I have that title of just being a shooter. During the season, being double and triple teamed a lot, I've been working with my dad on my ball-handling. All the coaches who have come down have been surprised because i've been handling the ball and creating my own shot.

Going back to the video you mentioned--what players were on it?

They had JJ Redick on there and it was interesting because a lot of people, including me thought he was just a shooter, but when you watch the film on him, he got shots in a lot of different ways. There was another guy, I forgot who it was, my dad played against him overseas, he shot it very well.

What was your reaction to getting the offer from Coach K?

Oh man, it was like seeing a dream come true be fulfilled, hard work really does pay off. Truly blessed in that moment, it's a dream come true, I'm watching him on TV growing up all my life and now I'm sitting face to face with him and he's offering me a scholarship, it's just a dream come true.

How about your dad's reaction?

He was shocked just like me. He feels like me that hard work is paying off.

So the next day, take us through that schedule?

The game was at 2:00 PM, so we got there around noon. We chilled around and walked around the campus, we saw where the freshman underclassman played and then it was game time. The campus had a real campus feel, it's what you think of when you think of a real campus environment, it's not a real spread out campus, it's a small private school. The fans have so much support for the team, it's crazy. Like before the game, you see the Cameron Crazies, they are lined up outside the door and it's just like, wow, they are passionate about their team.

At the game, the Cameron Crazies actually chanted my name. I didn't think they would know me, but they did, which was real cool.

With your dad being a former pro athlete--how does he approach these visits?

My dad actually told me I was going to have it much harder than he did because he was only recruited by Missouri and another school, he said it'll be harder for me since I have so many really great schools recruiting me. He did tell me he was like, "wow, we're really sitting here talking to Coach K and Roy Williams."

What did he think of how Duke and UNC conduct their programs?

My dad has tremendous respect for Duke, and for all the programs recruiting me because they run their program the right way. Coach Williams was actually saying that when he was at Kansas he coached against my dad, so they talked about the glory days and whatnot. I've rarely heard him say anything bad about the programs. He has respect for the coaches and he's going to help me make this decision because it's so hard.

That's got to be helpful for you, right?

Yeah I agree with his point too. To be recruited by three of the top coaches of all time with Coach K, Roy Williams and Tom Izzo, it's real hard. Coach Donovan, Coach Beilein, Coach Donovan, they are just great coaches.

Is it likely that Duke and UNC will receive official visits from you?

Yes, I think it's definitely likely.

What are the serious factors for you that you are evaluating?

Serious factors are the vibe with the coaching staff. Do they trust me and do I trust them. Secondly, I want to have opportunity to play and not have anything between me and the coach, I don't want anything given to me, I just want to compete to play. Lastly, a place that affords you opportunities after basketball, that's something I think about. Say if I don't make it to the next level, what can the school do for me with that. I'm interested in Computer Science right now.

How big a deal is the depth chart?

It'll play a role but it's not a major deal. I want to work for it, obviously I don't want to go to a place where my spot is majorly filled in.

Did any school share where they are at with recruiting?

Carolina said their wings will be gone, and their bigs are set with Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks and their point guards are set with Joel Berry and Marcus Paige, so they said they needed wings.

Duke said sort of the same thing. They feel Rodney Hood will be gone and Jabari Parker too. They aren't sure about Rasheed Sulaimon yet, whether he'll be gone too, but like I said before, I don't want anything handed to me. That doesn't play a role with me, I'm not thinking about being a one and done player, however long it takes me to get to the next level is what I'm thinking.

How do those opportunities compare and contrast for early playing time for you?

I see equal opportunity, but it depends on Sulaimon really. It's not going to take Duke out of the picture, and I want to give them equal chance and a good look. If a school is a good look it's a good look. I want early time if it's possible, but I'm just going to play my role at wherever I go.

How about at Florida since they are your upcoming visit?

We have tremendous respect for Coach Donovan, both of us do, he's put some players at my position on the map with guys like Bradley Beal, they do a good job there.

And with your dad playing at Missouri, what is that relationship like?

He always tell me to go where the best fit for me is. As a Missouri fan he cheers for them but he always tells me to make my own decision and he's cheering for me wherever I go. They've been showing me a lot of love up there since I've been going there since 8th grade.

How's the communication been with Duke and UNC since the visit?

It's been every day, mostly with the assistants, but I've talked with Coach Williams and Coach K too. Coach Roy explained how he feels about the offer stuff and how we need a better relationship and I need to trust him and he needs to trust me before an offer will come. I completely understand and respect that.

Is the timing of an offer a big deal?

That's how Coach Roy does it, I'm not going to hold it against him for not offering, if that's how he does it, I'm going to respect that.

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