CARMEL — Cathedral center Xavier Booker walked away from his unofficial visit to Indiana this week with not only a scholarship offer, but a good sense of how the Hoosiers would operate under new coach Mike Woodson.
As has been the case with just about every recruit Indiana has pursued and is pursuing so far under Woodson, the Hoosiers stressed the importance of developing relationships between the players and the coaching staff during Booker’s visit, and that was what most impressed the 6-foot-10, 205-pound rising junior.
“They like building relationships with the players,” Booker said Saturday at the IBCA/IHSAA Team Showcase in Memory of Charlie Hughes at Carmel High School. “He showed videos of him when he was the coach at the New York Knicks. He showed a lot of their players saying good things about him. It really meant a lot, seeing that.”
Booker is swiftly picking up attention nationwide, even though his game is still a bit raw. Along with Indiana, he has offers from Kansas State, Louisville, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Purdue and he said he’s newly hearing from Gonzaga, Michigan, Michigan State and Xavier. Purdue head coach Matt Painter was at Carmel to watch Booker on Saturday and Sunday, with Kenya Hunter representing the Indiana coaching staff on Saturday and Woodson and Dane Fife joined him on Sunday.
The coaches who are coming to see Booker’s game now are clearly seeing a player trying to expand his game. Cathedral has a loaded roster with more polished Division One recruits surrounding Booker on the perimeter. He’s not dominating the action at this point, but proving his game can expand from the post to the outside.
“We always relate it to, you have four quarters in a game, you have four years in high school, he’s at halftime right now,” Cathedral coach Jason Delaney said. “He made adjustments and now it’s time that you’ll see those adjustments. He’s going to be an even better player the next two years. This summer you’ll see glimpses of things you haven’t seen in the past because of his hard work. He just continues to get better.”
Booker is trying to show that he’s not afraid to handle or shoot the ball on the perimeter and he’s not afraid to defend there either. Against Fort Wayne Snider in his Saturday morning game, he hit a 3-point shot and attempted several more, and Delaney allowed him to bring the ball down the floor on more than one occasion. He also made sure he was switching out on the perimeter to guard wings so he could get a better sense of how to keep smaller players in front of him.
“Defensively, we want him to be able to guard positions 1 through 5,” Delaney said. “That’s a challenge for being 6-11 and being able to do those things. But that’s what’s going to help him down the road. For all of our guys, the more things you do the better you become. So we expect him to guard all the positions on the floor. Get the rebound, start to lead a break. Offensively, we want to see him move a little bit more. Not just post up, but come off some screens, demand some screens and dribble drive motion is what we’re trying to do. It’s worked for us, and now it’s just about him doing some of those things that he hasn’t done in his life. That’s what the summer is for.”
On Sunday Booker got a major test against 2022 5-star Jalen Washington from Gary West Side and he put together a strong performance with coaches from Notre Dame, North Carolina and dozens of others joining the IU and Purdue coaches. Booker had 13 points and Washington scored nine as the pair often were matched up head-to-head. Booker was impressive in transition, finishing multiple times at the rim with a soft touch at full speed, and he blocked Washington’s shot on at least one occasion and bothered him on other attempts. Booker appeared to be highly motivated to face a high caliber player like Washington, and with a much stronger supporting cast, Cathedral won the game easily.
(Mike Schumann contributed to this report.)
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