UK signee Booker dominates from charity stripe

broberts@herald-leader.comDecember 8, 2013 

Moss Point's Devin Booker dribbled up the court while being guarded by Gautier's Denzell Packnett in January. Booker, a Kentucky signee, made 20 of his 24 free throws in the Marshall County Hoop Fest on Sunday, which may encourage some UK fans.


BENTON — A disappointing loss to Baylor and another poor free-throw shooting performance fresh in their minds, UK fans at the Marshall County Hoop Fest must have been encouraged by what they saw from Devin Booker.

The UK signee attacked the basket all night in Saturday's loss to Ballard, earning 24 free throws and making 20 of them. At one point, he knocked down 12 in a row.

"It's big," he said. "We're seeing that right now with the young team at Kentucky. Free throws are big. My dad's been stressing them. You just have to get up there and knock them down."

Booker has been drawing double and triple teams against opposing defenses all season, and Ballard ran at least one extra defender at him every time he touched the ball Saturday night.

When that happens, Booker turns the aggressiveness up a notch. And it usually means a couple of freebies.

Racking up points from the line might not make for the most exciting basketball in the world, but it's certainly effective.

"Free throws are part of the game," said Moss Point Coach Micoe Cotton. "Allen Iverson didn't (make) everything from out there, but he averaged 30 points a game because of his ability to get to the bucket, get fouled and hit those free throws. You have nobody defending you, nobody in your face. Knock 'em down."

Status quo

Huntington Prep Coach Rob Fulford said over the weekend that there is still no timetable on the possible reclassification of small forward Montaque Gill-Caesar.

The 6-foot-6 prospect is seriously contemplating a move to the Class of 2014, which would make him one of UK's biggest immediate targets.

Gill-Caesar — considered a five-star prospect by — is also being recruited by Michigan State, Kansas, Ohio State, Illinois, West Virginia and several others.

Fulford said that Duke is the latest school that has reached out to Gill-Caesar.

He took an unofficial visit to Lexington for a UK game in Rupp Arena earlier this season.

One that got away

When the schedule was finalized for the Hoop Fest earlier this year, it looked like five-star point guard Emmanuel Mudiay was a good bet to become a Kentucky Wildcat.

He surprisingly signed with Southern Methodist instead and was almost an afterthought when he and Prime Prep (Texas) came to town Saturday for a 67-50 victory over Quality Education Academy (N.C.).

There was no response from the Kentucky crowd during his starting-lineup introduction, but he earned a nice ovation from the fans after an MVP performance that included 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and several dazzling plays.

A few minutes after Mudiay left the court, UK Coach John Calipari walked in and grabbed a seat near the baseline.

Next big event

Winter weather caused the cancellation of several Hoop Fest games over the weekend, but there will be another chance to see some of the nation's top players later this season.

The McCracken County Festival of Hoops is scheduled for Jan. 9-11 and the lineup includes UK signees Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis, as well as several other Calipari recruiting targets.

The Huntington Prep trio of Montaque Gill-Caesar, Thomas Bryant and Miles Bridges — all being recruited by Kentucky — will play two games at the event.

Other notable prospects include Class of 2015 stars Carlton Bragg, Cheick Diallo, Skal Labissiere and James "Beetle" Bolden, and top 2016 recruit Thon Maker.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216Twitter: @NextCatsBlog:

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