Clemson University

Booker proves a valuable commodity

CLEMSON - Trevor Booker might not exit to the same fanfare Clemson football star C.J. Spiller received in December, but the argument can be made that Booker has been just as instrumental to his respective program.

In their junior and senior seasons, Spiller and Booker each produced at least a fifth of their team's scoring.

Clemson coach Oliver Purnell says you must go beyond the numbers to understand the importance of Booker, who plays his final home game tonight at Littlejohn Coliseum against Georgia Tech. Purnell sounds much like Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney in explaining the value Spiller provided the football program.

"You look at (Booker) improving and his production, and it mirrors what we've done since he's been here," Purnell said. "He certainly picked up the mantle and moved this program forward."

Booker's critical block and free throws in the closing minutes of Sunday's victory against Florida State put Clemson in position for its third consecutive winning ACC season with a victory tonight -which would be a first in program history. And it's the first time the Tigers have recorded four consecutive 20-win seasons.

Like Spiller's former teammates, the Tigers aren't ready for life without Booker.

Clemson's shooters will miss his ability to draw double teams along with his accurate passes.

The coaches will miss his ability to bail out the team with turnaround fadeaway jumpers and energy-producing dunks.

"A lot of people are saying that this year, 'What are you going to do next year when Trevor leaves?'" point guard Demontez Stitt said. "We can only focus on the season right now. While he's here we, have to use him to our advantage."

Booker enters tonight with 1,670 points, 14 behind former teammate K.C. Rivers for sixth in school history.

He has passed Horace Grant for third on the rebounding list (1,028), and he's five blocks shy of Dale Davis (210) for fourth place.

He joins Dale Davis as the only players in school history to score 1,500 points and grab 1,000 rebounds.

Not bad for a kid who had two scholarship offers from major-college programs coming out of Union High.

"I knew if I worked hard I could be a good player, but I didn't think I'd have the impact I've had," Booker said.

Booker and the Tigers don't want to duplicate one aspect of Spiller's resume: The star running back never won an ACC title and never played in a BCS bowl game.

Similarly, Booker never has won an ACC title or an NCAA tournament game.

Regardless of how his final chapter plays out, said Booker: "I've given the team everything I had."

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC