Calipari: Booker getting it done on both ends

Kentucky’s Devin Booker was the repeat choice for SEC Freshman of the Week after helping lead the No. 1 Wildcats to wins over Missouri and Alabama.

Booker, a 6-foot-6 guard from Michigan, averaged 10 points against the Tigers and Crimson Tide while raising his league-leading 3-point shooting percentage to .507 on the season.

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He scored a team-high 13 points in Saturday’s win at Alabama, knocking down three of his six attempts from the arc. Two of those came during the decisive second-half run that saw the Wildcats stretch a nine-point lead to 28-points over the Tide.

Since Kentucky's Dec. 13 win over North Carolina, Booker has been on one of the hottest tears in program history. He has made 20 of his last 28 attempts (71 percent) from 3-point range and knocked down multiple treys in five of his last six games.

It’s been an eye-popping run for Booker, the son of former University of Missouri All-American Melvin Booker, who started the season 1-for-11 and went 0-for-9 in back to back games in early December before his hot streak began.

“The thing that I was on him about early was getting (his shot) off,” UK coach John Calipari said during Monday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “It’s not high school. You’re not going to jump over everybody. You’ve got to be able to catch and get it off. You’ve got to be able to have your shot prepared before you catch the ball, and he’s doing that. The rim has gotten big for him.”

Calipari noted that Booker is also playing extremely well on the other end of the floor, a pleasant surprise that was not evident when the Cats scouted him on the high school level and the AAU circuit.

“You guys all keep looking at him shooting the ball, and that’s good stuff, but defensively, I never thought he’d guard this way,” the UK boss said. “His energy, his ability to stay in front, fight screens, is what’s setting him apart for us right now.

“We can all talk shooting, but the reason we’re winning is because, when you put him in with Tyler (Ulis), that energy defensively is what really takes us to another level.”

Booker, who signed with UK as Scout's No. 28 prospect overall and the No. 6 shooting guard in the Class of 2014, also leads the Cats in free throw shooting (86 percent). He has made 12 of his last 13 at the line.

The Cats have now claimed the weekly award seven times this season. All four members of the nation's No. 2 recruiting class have won it at least one time, including Booker (3), Karl-Anthony Towns (2), Trey Lyles (1) and Ulis (1).

Tennessee’s Aarmani Moore, a juinior forward, was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, three steals and two assists in leading the Volunteers to wins over No. 19 Arkansas and Missouri.

Kentucky (17-0, 4-0 SEC) returns to action Tuesday night in a 9 p.m. ET tipoff against Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena.


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