Bookert grateful to be in NIT, faces Georgetown on ESPN tonight

March 24, 2014
Devon Bookert Basketball

Dating back to 1938, the NIT is one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious college basketball tournaments in the country.

But because an invitation means you didn’t get asked to the big dance, it’s often looked upon like the ugly sister of the NCAA Tournament.

Florida State was a bubble team, one of last four teams to get snubbed for an at-large berth to the NCAAs. The Seminoles got a consolation prize in the form of a No. 1 seed in the NIT.

“It’s not where we want to be, but now that we’re here we’re going to make the best of the situation,” Devon Bookert of Anchorage told me. “I think it’s a great tournament and a lot of great teams that deserved to be at the NCAA Tournament are always in there.”

Bookert, of West High fame, started Florida State’s 58-53 first round NIT win over Florida Gulf Coast last week and collected a team-high eight rebounds to go with three points in 36 minutes.

This is the sophomore’s second trip to the NIT and said single-elimination, postseason games brings a new level of focus to the game.

“Everything is more heightened,” he said. “The stakes are higher, just because if you lose your season is done.”

Florida State [20-13] will face Georgetown in the Sweet 16 tonight on ESPN [3 p.m. ADT]. Bookert wears jersey No. 1.

“They’ve always been a powerhouse in the Big East and we know they’ve got a lot of tradition,” he said. “I know it’ll be a good game.”

Bookert is averaging career highs in points [7.9], rebounds [3.1], assists [2.7] and minutes [26.3] in 33 games. He earned 24 starts, better than the 11 he had as a freshman.

“I think overall it’s been a good season for me, but I know I have a lot of room for improvement, like recognizing stuff in the flow of the game,” he said. “I trust the coaches because they’ve been in those situations before so they give you the knowledge to help you out.”

Speaking of helping out, Bookert grew up helping his younger sister Chanel learn the game of basketball and this year she was named Alaska Class 4A Player of the Year – the same award he won in 2011.

“I did teach her how to shoot,” he said. “But she definitely worked on her own. It means everything to me because I’m proud of her and people probably didn’t think she’d win that award when she was a freshman, but now people see that she’s really good.

“Our parents tried to make us the best people we could be and they told us that if we wanted to be good at something you had to work hard. You had to work harder than the next person.”

UPDATE: Bookert delivered his greatest collegiate performance against Georgetown, collecting season highs in points [21] and assists [9] as Florida State won 101-90 to move into the NIT quarterfinals. One more win to reach Gotham.