Summer league is the start of the 2016-17 season for some young players, but for Devin Booker, it’s about preparing for USA basketball’s select team.
“That’s a lot of the reason I’m here, is getting ready for USA,” Booker said after the Phoenix Suns’ 86-73 win Saturday over the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s Booker’s first time being selected to play for his country, an oddity for most players of his caliber.
“When the U-17 and U-16 teams were all getting selected, I knew I should have been in there,” Booker said after practice Thursday. “I’d rather take that chance now then back in the day.”
Booker earned the spot after playing at the highest level of basketball in the NBA, something most players can’t say after making the team for the first time in college or high school.
With that camp coming later in July, Booker was not expected to play the Suns’ entire summer league schedule.
After Saturday’s game against Portland, it’s a safe guess that it will be a one-and-done situation.
He scored a game-high 28 points, and also had eight rebounds and six assists.
His rumored trash talk game made an appearance in the third quarter when he started to get in a groove.
“That’s the nature of the game,” Booker said.
When asked if he reaches another level when he starts talking to his opposition, Booker agreed he has had that edge for some time.
“That’s how I have been a lot of my life,” Booker said, noting how his older brother used to talk trash to him consistently.
Booker’s quick progression is not just with how he plays on the court. A leadership role with the summer league team shows an accelerated growth early in the 19-year-old’s career.
“It kind of happened naturally to me,” Booker said of his leadership role on the Summer Suns Thursday.
Along with that leadership is a new diet, which comes off many noticing more muscle on the former Kentucky guard.
“Every day used to be a cheat day for me,” Booker said Thursday. “When you’re up late and you just want to snack and you end up calling fast food. Ronnie Price told me, a diet, no carbs after 3, but I’m starting to figure out everything’s a carb.”
Suns Summer League Head Coach Nate Bjorkgren said Thursday, “(Booker’s) really trying to push himself to the ultimate condition that he can get into for summer league and USA Basketball.”
That progression should shine through for Booker when he plays for USA Basketball’s select team later in the month.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do my whole life, to represent this country, and now I’m getting the chance,” Booker said Thursday.
The rapid rise for Booker since being picked at the end of the lottery last year has been noteworthy, but don’t expect him to stop anytime soon.
“Even though I had a pretty good rookie year, I’m still not satisfied,” Booker said.