Wednesday November 17, 2010 11:45 a.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
WIZARDS PAGE WIZARDS VIDEO
With Yi Jianlian sidelined with a knee injury, the opportunity has come knocking for rookie forward Trevor Booker to get some major minutes off the bench and justify that first round selection in the NBA draft. Booker was seldom used this season until the Bulls game last Saturday when he came in and provided a spark with his energy and hustle helping the Wizards make a nice comeback late. "First game time experience with starting players it felt pretty good, got my feet wet, looking to continue," Booker said.
Wizards coach Flip Saunders feels the same way. "The energy he gave, defensively contesting every shot, rebounding the basketball, not trying to do too much, that's what we need from him," Saunders said. Booker scored 2 points, had 4 assists and 2 rebounds in 18 minutes in the Chicago loss.
Booker kept it going in the win over Toronto Tuesday night, logging 20 minutes, scoring 8 points and grabbing 2 rebounds but despite the praise from his coach afterward, Booker wasn't satisfied. "I think I played decent, I definitely could have played better. I was upset at some of the things I did but I know sometimes I will make some mistakes just got go back to practice and fix it," Booker said. So what are things he needs to improve? "I reached in a couple times when I should have moved my feet. Most of the things on the defensive end," Booker said. He did pick up 4 fouls against Toronto.
This past offseason, the Wizards knew that they had to get better at rebounding and becoming more physical down low. Enter the 6'8 Booker, who was known as banger and rebounding machine at Clemson. The only player in ACC history with 1,500 career points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 blocks, 200 assists and 100 steals, Booker led Clemson to three NCAA Tournament appearances in his four seasons with the Tigers. He was taken 23rd overall in the draft by Minnesota and then the Wizards traded for his rights.
In training camp and through the first 7 games of the season, coach Flip Saunders continually harped about how his team had to get tougher around the rim -- but wouldn't put a player who did just that in Booker in. Then Yi got hurt and Saunders had no option but to see how the rookie would fare. In the last two games, Booker has shown he belongs and deserves more playing time.