March 1, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Twenty-eight games into the season with just three left to play before the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, it's tough not to play the "what if game" with freshman point guard Devon Bookert.
Since entering the starting lineup five games ago, Bookert has provided something that the FSU men's basketball team hadn't had all season: a true facilitator consistently running the show. For the first time since Luke Loucks controlled the ball-handling duties en route to the program's first ACC championship, the 'Noles have their point guard.
So, what if he hadn't been injured in a scooter accident? What if the lasting effects of that injury hadn't slowed him down through the better part of a difficult season for the Seminoles? It's hard to predict just how different this season would have played out if a rookie had been 100 percent -- but it's an interesting question because of how comfortable Bookert looks at times as Florida State's on-court quarterback.
"I think he gives us a true point guard," junior forward Okaro White said. "He's the only true point guard on our team and I tell him all the time that he is going to be really good. He's already good now but he's just going to keep getting better and better. He's a great decision maker and he enjoys that role of being the point guard and facilitating to all of the players on the court."
The injury to his left knee hasn't stopped Bookert him from playing in every game this season, but it certainly affected his ability as that facilitator until recently when he made his move into the starting lineup.
Over the course of the last five games, the Anchorage, Alaska native has averaged 8.2 points after scoring at a 5.1 points-per-game clip in 23 contests as a reserve off the bench. He's averaging nearly 30 minutes as a starter after playing just 17.9 minutes per game in the first 23 games.
Oh, and he's still not completely healthy.
"I think we are still having a hard time really trying to judge him because he is still recovering," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He is not 100 percent yet. I think mentally he understands but physically he has not been able to do what he has wanted to do. As he improves and recovers from his injury it seems as thought he's starting to play and giving us a little bit more of what he is capable of doing."
And Bookert, who enters Sunday's game 2 p.m. game at North Carolina, has experienced firsthand the effects that his knee can have on his game.
"I can see that I am improving and the my leg has gotten a little bit stronger," Bookert said. "It's helped me a lot to feel better as time goes on."
As that knee continues to progress, it gives the Seminoles hope not just for the remainder of a season that still features a league tournament appearance and potentially a berth in the NIT but for the future as well.
When he's feeling good, moving smoothly and in a rhythm, the offense simply runs better when he's the one serving as its guide.
In addition to his role as a passer, he's also showed off a deft shooting touch in recent games. As long as Duke's Ryan Kelly is sidelined with an injury, Bookert is the only actively-competing ACC men's basketball player that is shooting .500 or better from 3-point range, according to FSU's sports information office. He's also shooting 90 percent from the free-throw line as a starter and nearly 84 percent from the charity stripe over the course of the year.
"I think Devon has always been a solid, fundamental player," Hamilton said. "He dribbles, shoots jump shots, makes quick decisions."
Much of that fundamental-based ability stems from Bookert's youth when he spend countless hours working on his shooting touch with his father. Now as his knee continues to improve and his game continues to develop, Bookert figures to be a centerpiece of the Florida State lineup now and in the future.
No more "what ifs" for the young guard; just "what's next."