Phoenix Suns Introduce Devin Booker

Jun. 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby, head coach Jeff Hornacek, 2015 NBA Draft selection Devin Booker and general manager Ryan McDonough pose for a picture at a press conference. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns
Jun. 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby, head coach Jeff Hornacek, 2015 NBA Draft selection Devin Booker and general manager Ryan McDonough pose for a picture at a press conference. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns /
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After selecting Kentucky sharpshooter Devin Booker with the 13th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns formally introduced their first round draft selection in a press conference at US Airways Center Friday afternoon.

With president of basketball operations Lon Babby, general manager Ryan McDonough and head coach Jeff Hornacek present, Booker addressed the Suns media for the first time.

“I’m blessed to have this opportunity to play here and I can’t wait to be involved with the team,” Booker said. “I’m looking to bring a winning attitude and a competitive spirit as I did at Kentucky and I just can’t wait to make a brotherhood with these other teammates.”

A 6’6″ shooting guard from Kentucky, Booker was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year for the deepest powerhouse in college basketball that finished two wins shy of a perfect season and an NCAA title. Averaging 10 points per game off the bench, Booker was the team’s third leading scorer and shot 47 percent from the field.

The biggest asset he brings to the table, however, is his elite shooting touch. At only 18 years old, Booker was the second-youngest prospect in this year’s draft class (UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn was the youngest), but in spite of that youth, he consistently was pegged as the purest spot-up shooter in the draft after he converted 41.1 percent of his 3.7 three-point attempts per game last season.

“Growing up I was bigger than everybody so they throw you in the post when you’re young,” he said. “But I was always I fan of 2-guards, I grew up in Michigan, I was a fan of Rip Hamilton and I wasn’t even a shooting guard then. So I guess I implemented a little bit of his game into mine just watching.”

Booker was joined by his mother Veronica Gutierrez, his father Melvin Booker and his brother and sister. Booker’s father was the Big-8 Player of the Year in 1994 and played professionally overseas, which inspired Devin to want to become a professional basketball player at a young age.

“It gave me that drive to know that your dad’s a professional basketball player and you see where ball can take you and it makes you want to work that much harder,” he said.

Booker attributed his maturity and his success to both of his parents.

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“When I was being raised in Grand Rapids, my dad was overseas playing a lot, so I only got to see him during the summer,” he said. “So just seeing my mom come home and work hard for us every day — me and my brother and my sister — it taught me that drive off the court. Just how hard she fought for us, it meant a lot to me and it made me want to work that much harder to be in a situation like I am now to take care of her.”

As the newest member of the Suns, Booker joins Phoenix’s all-Kentucky backcourt of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Archie Goodwin. Booker said the familiarity that comes from playing under head coach John Calipari is a bond that will help him feel more comfortable with his new surroundings.

One example Booker cited was Bledsoe taking to Twitter Thursday night to let the rookie know he had a special backpack waiting for him upon his arrival — most likely a Hello Kitty, Dora the Explorer or similarly themed bag for him to wear.

“I feel like it’s going to make the transition easier for me. Just a tweet like that, it just shows you how they’re here for me and they’ll help my transition,” he said.

Booker has often been pigeonholed as a spot-up shooter, and his abilities in that area will certainly help a team that needs floor spacing like Phoenix. After the trade deadline, the Suns were the worst three-point shooting team in the league, and Booker should help alleviate the driving lanes for Bledsoe and Knight.

But McDonough and Hornacek both mentioned that they liked the other areas of Booker’s game, especially since he’s only 18 years old and is already so mature.

“He’s a guy that if you put him on the court today or tomorrow as an 18-year-old guy, teams would respect him and respect his shot,” McDonough said. “We kind of hope they’d leave him open for jump shots and we’d certainly take that, but even the threat of him or a player like him opens up the court for Eric and Brandon and those guys to drive.

“So that’ll be kind of his immediate role, his immediate value, but one of the things that really impressed us in the workout process is there’s a whole lot more to his game than making spot-up shots. His athleticism stood out, his potential, his versatility off the dribble and defensively was certainly a lot better than I think we thought going into the process.”

Booker recognizes his need to improve all the other areas of his game that don’t involve his smooth shooting stroke. As a student of the game, Booker mentioned that he’s been using the Synergy app to study NBA 2-guards and learn their tendencies.

He also noted that becoming more defensive-minded is something he plans to work on, starting with his rookie season.

“In this league you have to come in with a defensive mindset now,” he said. “A lot of players have showed that becoming an elite two-way player is really important and it keeps you on the floor. You can’t just be a one-sided player, you can’t stay on the court that way.

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Newly-signed Mavericks wing excited for rivalry with Suns and Devin Booker /

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  • “I think I can surprise a lot of people, I think a lot of people are realizing I’m more athletic than they’re saying I was, that I can create for others and myself. But at the end of the day, I want to do what the team needs me to do to win.”

    The arrival of Booker raises questions about how he and Archie Goodwin — another young and promising 2-guard — will coexist, and the writing is almost certainly on the wall for Reggie Bullock and Gerald Green, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

    But McDonough wasted no time in pointing out that the team will head into training camp in Flagstaff with an open mind and that nothing is guaranteed. If Booker is able to prove himself and his shooting ability early on, he’ll earn his minutes pretty quickly as a rookie.

    Booker is in no rush, saying he wanted to come in and learn first before implementing his own playing style. But given his impressive basketball IQ, his positive attitude and his high quality character, Booker has the chance to make an impact and prove he was the right choice for the Suns now that his dream of becoming a professional basketball player has been fully realized.

    “It’s tough to put into words,” he said. “I’ve wanted this dream my whole life, I’ve worked so hard ever since I’ve been five years old, I’ve been playing basketball. To be in this position I’m in now, it really shows that hard work really does pay off.”

    At the start of the press conference, Babby also acknowledged Jared Ornoski, a 17-year-old that was signed to a short-term front office position back in May to help the Suns through the draft process. Ornoski is currently battling Hodgkins Lymphoma and the room applauded when Babby announced that he had undergone his last round of chemotherapy.

    “Free agency starts on Tuesday night, Jared,” McDonough joked.

    Next: 5 Reasons Devin Booker Was The Right Pick For The Suns

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