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Florida State senior Devon Bookert emerges as team leader

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Devon Bookert has developed into one of the best long-distance shooters in Florida State basketball history.

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said the 6-foot-3 guard has come a long way, and he wasn’t referring to the 4,613 miles Bookert’s has traveled to get to Tucker Center from his high school gym at Anchorage West.

“He has gotten tougher and more determined. He wasn’t always that way,” Hamilton said. “Part of it is physical, but a lot of it is emotional.”

Bookert, who is averaging 9.8 points per game, will play his final home game on Saturday when the Seminoles face Syracuse. He will be honored in pregame ceremonies along with fellow seniors Boris Bojanovsky, Montay Brandon, Michael Ojo and Michael Sexton.

Bookert’s strength has always been 3-point shooting. After having a wrist injury early in the season, he leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 48.8 accuracy percentage beyond the arc in league games. He is eighth in conference history at 42.4 percent for his career.

But Bookert’s defense has also stood out this season. He is tied for fifth in steals in conference games with 26 and has been aggressive in going after loose balls.

“Now that I have been healthy my focus has been not to be the weak link. In past seasons I did take plays off,” Bookert said. “My focus has been on containing the ball and doing a bunch of different things defensively.”

Bookert is only the third guard in school history with at least 1,000 career points (1,074), at least 300 assists (329) and at least 100 steals (127). Bob Sura (1992-95) and Isaiah Swann (2005-08) are the others.

Freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley have been the Seminoles’ scoring and rebounding leaders, but Hamilton said that Bookert has emerged as a leader. In interviews, Bookert could be one of the most soft-spoken players in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but Hamilton said that has not been the case behind closed doors.

The mental improvement Bookert has made this season is the biggest area where Hamilton has been the most pleased.

“He’s a guy that if a fight breaks out you want him on the other side of you because he is going to be there to you to the end,” Hamilton said. “And then on Sunday morning, he is going to pick your daughter up and take her to church.”

Bookert is averaging 11.0 points and shooting 48.9 percent from the field over the past six games. In an 85-72 loss at Syracuse on Feb. 11, Bookert had 15 points, five assists and three steals.

Florida State (17-12, 7-10 ACC) went into that game with hopes of making the NCAA Tournament, but it has dropped five of its past six and would need to win at least its next three games to get back into the discussion. The Seminoles also need a win on Saturday and a Georgia Tech loss to Pittsburgh to avoid being one of the four lowest seeds in the ACC Tournament, which opens on Tuesday.

Syracuse (19-11) is one of four teams at 9-8 in the conference as the sixth through ninth seeds remain undetermined.

“Last Saturday’s win against Notre Dame was important because it hopefully should give us momentum for the stretch run,” Bookert said. “Most of the time it is not the opponents we play but us doing the little things.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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