Originally written on College Chalktalk  |  Last updated 11/15/14
Clemson forward Devin Booker is ready to lead the Tigers back to the postseason after averaging 10.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season. (Credit: Rex Brown/IPTAY Media) Devin Booker stayed busy over the summer, splitting time between going to class and improving his basketball skills on the Clemson campus. After all that work Booker finally took a break in September for a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit older brother Trevor, a former college teammate and current forward for the Washington Wizards. It was an eight-hour drive both ways for Booker, now a senior, and Clemson graduate assistant Jonah Baize, but the time with family was well worth the trip. “We were able to bond a lot, play against each other and make each other better,” Booker said in a recent interview with College Chalktalk. “He’s someone I can look to for anything and tells me about the hard work it takes to get to the level he’s at. I know this is going to be a quick year, and I know I have to put in the hard work now.” Booker is putting in the hard work to help Clemson bounce back after going 16-15 overall and 8-8 in the ACC last season and missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007. He led the Tigers in rebounding (7.0 rpg) a season ago and is their top returning scorer (10.5 ppg). The 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward/center went into the offseason knowing there was room for improvement. His numbers have improved each of the past three years, going from playing a supporting role as a freshman (4.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg) to scoring in double digits last season. “I’m pretty decent in the post but wanted to improve my perimeter game,” Booker said. “I also worked on my ball-handling, pull-up jumpers off the dribble, pump fakes and finishing around the rim.” Booker joins F Milton Jennings (9.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) as the only two starters – and lone seniors – back for Clemson. The Tigers have 12 underclassmen and six newcomers on the roster, so they’ll lean heavily on Booker and Jennings. “We’ve never had a situation like this before,” Booker said. “We’re just taking it from the beginning. We listen to the coaches and see what we can teach these young guys every day.” Third-year Clemson coach Brad Brownell has high expectations for Booker this season. The Tigers were picked eighth in the ACC in both the coaches and media preseason polls. “I think Devin has improved, and I think he’s worked harder on his game than in years past,” Brownell recently told the ACC.com. “Everyone sees his ability and wants more, myself included, and Devin is at the point where he’s hopefully ready to do that. He needs to take one more big step. I need him to be comfortable, to be confident and to unload and really play with reckless abandon at times out there and use his athleticism on every play.” Brownell added that Clemson should have a strong backcourt with the return of Booker and Jennings, a former McDonald’s All-American. “We feel good about Devin Booker and Milton Jennings,” Brownell said. “They’re two seniors who have paid their dues. We feel like they’re ready to have big seasons. You go into the ACC always worried if you’re going to be physically ready to play, and I think at least in the frontcourt we’ll be physically able to compete.” Clemson made the NCAA tournament in each of Booker’s first two years but missed the postseason last season despite ranking second in the ACC in scoring defense (60.6 ppg). The Tigers won five of their last seven conference games but also had five league losses by a single possession. Overall, Clemson suffered eight losses in ACC play by an average margin of 6.3 points. “Two years ago it was tough to play against us because the help defense was on point,” Booker said. “I guess we kind of lost that last year. It just didn’t click for us. That’s been something we’ve been focusing on and trying to get back. Hopefully, it will show up this season.” Outside of Booker and Jennings, Clemson faces several unknowns this season. The backcourt will have a new look after G Andre Young (13.3 ppg, 3.1 apg, 1.7 spg) and G Tanner Smith (11.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, 1.7 spg) exhausted their eligibility and G Devin Coleman (2.6 ppg) tore his Achilles tendon over the summer. Sophomore G Rod Hall (3.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.1 apg) is battling freshmen G Adonis Filer and G Jordan Roper for playing time at point guard. Brownell also hopes for more consistency from a pair of sophomores, 6-6 F K.J. McDaniels (3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg) and 6-2 G T.J. Sapp (3.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg). Booker is eager to assume more of a leadership role with Clemson facing so many questions this season. “This year I’m more of an aggressive player and more of a leader now,” Booker said. “I’m going to play with energy and determination and hope it rubs off on the younger guys. If we get a defensive mentality we can make a statement this year.” Related Posts:Clemson looks to make pushSneak peek: Sumner’s ACC predictions and all-conference ballotLutz pleased Purvis cleared to play at NC StateOklahoma’s Osby, Kansas’ Johnson snubbed of Big 12 preseason honorsMcKie set to step into bigger spotlight for Wake Forest
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Pacquiao knocks down Algieri six times in easy win

John Calipari gets daughter's birthday wrong

Carson: Hall of Fame career not worth concussion problems

Tiger hires new swing coach

Is Sting making his WWE debut at Survivor Series?

Eric Decker: It's tough watching Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Semaje Perine breaks Melvin Gordon's rushing record

Report: Chip Kelly, Eagles GM not seeing eye-to-eye

Pete Carroll open to playing Richard Sherman at WR

Jay Gruden: RG3 has been 'coddled for so long'

Red Sox have best offer on table for Pablo Sandoval?

LeBron: Kevin Love will get the ball 'if he demands it'

WATCH: Young reporter asks Helfrich funny question

Sager makes first appearance since leukemia diagnosis

Harvard kicker wears glasses

WATCH: Tennessee fans go a little overboard celebrating TD

Dwight Howard out indefinitely after having PRP on knee

Report: Mike Gundy pursuing Florida job

WATCH: Jameis Winston gets away with shoving an official

WATCH: Georgia's Chris Conley makes diving TD catch

WATCH: Nebraska blocks field goal, returns it for TD

Florida DL shows support for Will Muschamp with eye black

WATCH: Javale McGee kisses elderly fan sitting courtside

WATCH: Tim Tebow busts out a brief Steve Spurrier impression

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Cal gets daughter's bday wrong

Carson: Career not worth concussions

Report: Gundy pursuing Florida job

Tiger hires new swing coach

WATCH: Jameis Winston shoves ref

Florida DL supports Will Muschamp with eye black

Jay Gruden: RG3 has been 'coddled'

LeBron: Love needs to 'demand' the ball

Bills-Jets game will be free admission

Pete Carroll: Lynch is 'our guy'

Which NFL team will get the #1 pick?

Game of the week: Patriots vs. Lions

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.