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John Calipari reflects on Devin Booker’s path to All-Star Game

Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats talks to Aaron Harrison #2 and Devin Booker #1 during the SEC/Big 12 Challenge against the Texas Longhorns at Rupp Arena on December 5, 2014 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Texas 63-51. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Often times, the most formative year for future NBA players will be the first year they spend in college.

More than the Xs and Os on the court, college basketball coaches at the top level are highly regarded because of the “molders of men” they are and how they can take kids, give them good habits and make them much better players from October to March.

John Calipari got that year for Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker at Kentucky and joined 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station to look back on where the now-All-Star guard was back when he got him in 2014.

“I remember going to Moss Point, Mississippi, to see this skinny kid playing against his father, who was a hell of a player, by the way, Melvin Booker, and his friends who were overweight, big or whatever and the gym is 105 degrees and I’m sitting there saying, ‘Wow,” Calipari told Bickley & Marotta.

“Even then you could see he had so much confidence in himself. He had a swagger — based on his training, not based on delusion, which happens at times.”

You’ll remember that on that Kentucky team, a Wildcats squad that went 38-1, Booker actually came off the bench in his lone freshman season. That was always the story for Booker, who went from not playing much in national showcase games as a high school prospect to his recent All-Star snub.

“All this stuff where he didn’t think he got his due, he used it as fuel,” Calipari said. “He had a swagger based on, ‘I deserve this, this is gonna happen, no one works like me.'”

And with Calipari having an inside track on the type of relationship that Booker can have with a coach, Calipari sees nothing but good signs with what’s going on in Phoenix, despite the low win totals in Booker’s four-plus seasons.

“He will trust the process if he trusts the people involved,” he said. “And I think at this job, the job Monty (Williams) is doing and with him personally — off the charts.”


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