TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Devon Bookert didn’t score as many points as Dwayne Bacon or Malik Beasley during Florida State’s 76-65 win over Clemson on Saturday.He didn’t have as many rebounds as Bacon or Montay Brandon, and he didn’t play as many minutes as several of his teammates.But to hear coaches Leonard Hamilton and Brad Brownell tell it, Bookert might have played as big of a role in the Seminoles’ victory as any player on the floor.
A senior from Alaska, Bookert has evolved from a sharpshooter – he’s shot 53.1 percent from 3-point range in 10 ACC games – into something of a utility man. That was apparent in his stat line Saturday, when he wore the hat of scorer (nine points), rebounder (five boards), distributor (five assists) and defensive specialist (three steals) in 21 minutes of work.
All while playing with the type of tenacity that doesn’t show up in the box score.
“He’s a very good player. I really like him,” Clemson’s Brownell said. “He’s steady. Makes shots. Smart. Takes care of the ball. He’s one of those guys you just win with. He’s a winner. “
Unsurprisingly, FSU held an eye-popping plus-18 scoring differential when Bookert was in the game.
“I thought Devon Bookert gave us a tremendous lift with his defensive presence on the floor,” Hamilton said. “I thought that gave us an opportunity for some other players to get a lot of deflections which led to 13 steals.”
As a result, the Seminoles turned 18 Clemson giveaways into 11 points, including some rim-shaking dunks that helped turn the tide in FSU’s favor.
Bookert’s defensive renaissance isn’t just a flash in the pan, either. He’s got at least one steal in every game this season and ranks second in the ACC with 32 steals in 19 games. And he’s just seven points away from becoming the 44th player in school history to score 1,000 points in his career.
“People don’t notice how much ball pressure he puts on people,” Beasley said. “I think that’s what caused one of those dunks. He’s a great player and he’s a great leader.”
And a quiet leader. Bookert is often a man of few words when giving media interviews, and teammates say he’s the same way in practice. He does his job without talking about it.
But when Bookert does speak, he commands his teammates’ full attention.
“He knows when to say something,” Beasley said. “That’s good, because whenever he says something, we know he’s right.”
Bookert, along with Montay Brandon and Boris Bojanovsky, is part of a senior class that is entering the twilight of its collegiate career.
The Seminoles have 10 regular season games left, including Monday night’s home contest against NC State (9 p.m., ESPNU), and how those games play out will likely determine FSU’s postseason fate.
Although Bookert and his fellow seniors have yet to play in the NCAA tournament, there’s still time to change that and finish their careers on college basketball’s biggest stage.
And their teammates say they’re determined to make that happen.
“Definitely,” Bacon said. “That’s something they’ve wanted since they got here. And it’s been four years and they haven’t had it. So that’s really what we’re pushing for – the postseason. We can do it, we’ve just got to keep fighting.”