Lessons from Team USA minicamp continue to shape Devin Booker

Nov 14, 2018, 3:04 PM | Updated: 3:06 pm

Devin Booker, right, drives into Kevin Durant during a training camp for USA Basketball, Friday, Ju...

Devin Booker, right, drives into Kevin Durant during a training camp for USA Basketball, Friday, July 27, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

As the Phoenix Suns’ franchise cornerstone Devin Booker continues to develop into one of the league’s deadliest scorers, the young gun has learned from some of the best that basketball has to offer.

Booker was one of 35 players selected to attend the United States Men’s National Basketball Team minicamp in Las Vegas in late July. Along with a crop of rising talents and All-Stars, Booker got the opportunity to compete with and against the NBA’s finest.

During the event, Booker got the chance to learn from one of the game’s most revered strategists in San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

“Coach Popovich, spent time with him at USA this summer,” Booker said ahead of the Suns’ game against the Spurs. “Just a true basketball mind.

“He pulled me aside a couple of times at USA and gave me little tidbits – just things to think about.”

Popovich has spent the last two decades guiding the Spurs organization to a record shattering 21 consecutive playoff appearances including five championships. His teachings could prove valuable for Booker as he seeks the first playoff appearance of his career.

The 22-year-old has shown signs of growth through his first 10 games of the season. Now in his fourth season, Booker is averaging a career-high in average assists, dishing out 6.4 dimes per contest. He’s shooting a career-high in effective field goal percentage at 50.5 percent, a number that could improve as he rediscovers his three-point efficiency.

The work ethic and values of his Team USA peers have made a mark on Booker’s mindset as a leader for the young Suns.

“There was a lot of hard workers there, honestly,” Booker said. “I think when you put that many competitors in one gym that it’s going to bring the most out of everybody and that’s what that did. That was a very valuable weekend for me.”

Surrounded by legends such as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving, Booker not only had the chance to prove that he belonged among the game’s top talents, but it was an opportunity to pick their brains and learn what it takes to truly lead his team.

While Booker was hesitant to reveal what he learned specifically, he seemed to learn how to take control of the locker room and set the tone for Phoenix moving forward.

“Being there seeing it, seeing how they carry themselves and the habits that the best players in the world have, so trying to lead by example,” Booker said. “Lead by voice, holding people accountable but holding myself accountable at the same time.”

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