It has become a habit to say Booker is turning a corner and playing well. And he will, at least for a couple of games, before falling back into a mini-funk.
For the Sooners to continue their run in the NCAA tournament, that mini-funk cannot come back Friday night against Michigan State in the Sweet 16 meeting in the East region in Syracuse, N.Y.
“I’m pretty much tired of that, and that’s why I’ve been in the gym a lot more, trying to prevent the slump. Right now, it’s not a time to get into a slump because it’s in the end of the year.”
Booker has earned the reputation as a gunner for the Sooners. His shooting percentage certainly doesn’t reflect it at only 31 percent from 3-point territory. Booker has that positive and the negative thing about a shooter. He’s never seen a shot he couldn’t make or take.
When the first one goes in, he can get into a rhythm. But if he’s off, he can start pressing and go through an inconsistent stretch. His teammates know that, too.
“He’s been working hard outside of practice,” forward Ryan Spangler said. “I always knew when he knocked the first one down that he’d get in a flow and hit some more. And that’s what he did.”
Booker is the perfect symbol of OU’s bench success from last weekend. After having scored a combined two points in the Big 12 tournament, the reserves combined for 30 points in the wins against Albany and Dayton.
Twenty of those were from Booker, who averages five points per contest. He shot 6-of-12 on his 3-point field goal attempts and was a blistering 4 of 6 in the round of 32 against the Flyers.
The secret? Being healthy. But going beyond that, unique advice from his father.
“I’ll meditate here and there,” Booker said. “That helps a lot, seeing the ball go in in my mind. If I can do that, I feel like I have a better chance of making shots.
“I sit in my room, turn everything off, turn my phone off and turn the lights off in the dark and just go in my room and visualize the ball going in. It’s been a few months, my dad told me to do it and see if it would help me. My father said he did it, and it helped him out. Now I do it.”
Booker was plagued with back spasms through the first part of the season and struggled to get into a rhythm. It wasn’t until the middle of Big 12 play where Booker started to show signs of becoming a vital member in OU’s run.
What he did against Albany and Dayton can’t be the apex of Booker’s season. He knows that, and junior guard Buddy Hield is making sure he realizes this.
“That’s what we need him to do, step up and make shots,” Hield said. “I tell him, ‘keep that gun ready and locked and loaded. We need to make shots. We can’t win this without you.’ We need guys like that to step up and make plays.”