October 28, 2013

Big things expected for Bookert

Devon Bookert speaks softly, but every single syllable is perfectly enunciated. He does most things with a certain exactness as well; from his outside jump shot to pinpoint passes to a perfectly groomed pencil-thin mustache.

There's just one thing that's not at all exact: the tangled mass of scars on his left knee. It's a reminder of what became a point of irritation for both Bookert and Florida State last season: a brutal moped accident early in the 2012 preseason.

The "infamous moped accident" as labeled by coach Leonard Hamilton, kept Bookert out of much of the preseason and left him limited for all of his freshman season.

"He never got into game shape, never god over the surgery to remove the rocks and gravel," Hamilton said. "Now he's going through drills and understands some things that he's never had a chance to learn. He played but he never had a chance to develop a relationship with what we were trying to do."

With the knee finally back to full strength, Bookert is looking now to get back to the measured precision that he flashed at times last season. Of Florida State's seven newcomers last season, Bookert had the highest efficiency rating. He finished second on the team in assists behind senior Michael Snaer and had the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the roster.

But Bookert spent much of the year frustrated at his lack of mobility and inconsistent play. Only once as a freshman did he record back-to-back double-digit scoring games.

"I think I did OK," Bookert said. "I wasn't really consistent. I'd have a good game and then I'd come back and have a mediocre game or a bad game."

During offseason, Bookert took time to learn each of his teammates' tendencies: where to pass them the ball, what kind of pass they like, or what side of the court to be on for secondary plays. He studied film on his teammates to the point where he can impersonate their playing styles.

"Before practice he's basically having fun, and saying this is what you do, Okaro and this is what you do, Aaron," senior Okaro White said. "He's got us pretty much down."

Bookert, despite being soft-spoken, has also been pushed to be more vocal on the court. He said he's worked on keeping a constant chatter on the floor during the offseason.

"It's just something I've had to work on and keep on trying to do," Bookert said. "Just in practice mostly, so when it comes to the game it'll be second nature. Just talking as much as you can, even if you don't know what you're talking about just saying something to communicate to everybody."

More than anything else, Bookert said he's more confident and comfortable with one run through the ACC under his belt. He and Florida State's seven other newcomers were thrown into the fire last season, now he says he's better prepared for the coming months of what's likely going to be one of the toughest basketball conferences in the country.

"We feel way more confident because we know what's expected of us," Bookert said. "Last year it was really uncharted ground for us and now we know what to expect."

Florida State players and coaches say the team's trip to Greece sparked a renewed focus on ball movement - something that will likely hinge on Bookert and fellow backcourt mate Ian Miller . Bookert's passing was enough to show up on highlight reels at times,

It's not just passing either. Bookert finished the 2012-2013 season with a blistering .525 three-point field goal shooting percentage. And his healthy knee allows him to showcase a bit more driving ability. His teammates have already noticed.

"I've been telling everybody I think he's the best true point guard to come through Florida State since Sam Cassell," White said. "I really think he is. By the time it's all said and done I think he'll be known as one of the best point guards to ever come through here. It's just natural. He's got a natural feel for it. The only big change this summer was his confidence."

If FSU hopes for big things from a fully healthy Bookert, teammates and coaches aren't the only ones taking an interest. His play last season perked up enough eyes that he was named to the Cousy Award preseason watchlist.

It doesn't mean Bookert is destined for greatness; in fact it means nothing at all other than people are watching. And that's something that hasn't happened at Florida State very often.

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