To be honest, I don’t know if Askia Booker is the kind of dude that tattoo something across his chest. But if he was that bold, it’s very likely that the word “fearless” would be sprawled across his abdomen.
From the moment that he landed in the D-League last year with the now-defunct Bakersfield Jam, Booker showed the heart of a warrior. Anytime he takes the ball up the court, the 6’1 guard seems willing to do anything he can to help lead his team to victory, even if it meant doing something that could push his team’s coaching staff some steps closer to premature balding.
A prime example of Booker’s tenacity was seen during the Northern Arizona Suns’ Thursday night matchup against the Texas Legends. From the opening tip-off, Booker seemed absolutely focused on being an absolute nightmare to the Legends defense. That mindset was seen during an early Suns possession where he was able to make his way towards the rim despite being heavily guarded by Bryson Fonville.
That solid drive was the start of a solid game for Booker as he never really seemed afraid of trying to outwork his opposing defender. Whether it was through those on-ball drives, step-back jumpers or even occasionally working the offensive glass, the 6’1 guard was willing to challenge any player, even if they stood much taller than Booker.
Although he was able to utilize each of those skills throughout the game, Booker did the majority of his damage as a step-back shooter. Due to his 6’1 frame, having that step-back jumper becomes extremely vital when he decides to move away from the paint and work as a mid-range shooter. Rather than allowing the bigger defenders to deter his jumper, Booker utilizes his solid handles to trip the opposition to create the separation needed to get a clean look at the rim. Following that move, Booker can square up and hit a smooth mid-range jumper.
The combination of Booker’s fearless nature and the utilization of a step-back jumper came to a head in the closing moments of that game against Texas.
With the game tied 118-118 with just four seconds left in OT, Booker took the ball across mid-court with his mind set on winning the game for Northern Arizona. As he closed in on the perimeter, Booker took his way to the right end of the court after working around a double screen set by Derek Cooke Jr. and Michael Bryson.
Working around that screen left Legends guard Keith Hornsby as the only player that was able to stop Booker from getting his way to the rim. While Booker teased a drive towards the rim, he decided to step back which both tripped up himself and the former LSU guard. Luckily, Booker was able to quickly recover and hit a fantastic buzzer-beating jumper which pushed Northern Arizona to a victory over Texas.
Booker’s game-winning jumper was the cherry on top of what was a fantastic game for the young guard. In that victory against Texas, Booker put up 29 points, 7 boards and 5 assists on 10-20 from the field, 2-6 from beyond the arc and 7-8 from the free throw line.
Despite how impressive he was in that game against Texas, that performance is actually more of a deviation than a norm of how Booker has performed during this season. As has been the case since his time in college, Booker has experienced this on-going battle to actually stay consistent for an extended period of time. Those struggles are evident by him putting up 16.7 points, 4.2 boards and 5.5 assists on 41% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Those shooting averages has allowed him to maintain a below-average 50% True Shooting Percentage.
While Askia Booker will always stand as that fearless player that will constantly do anything he can to help push his team to victory, he still stands as a work in progress. To reach that ultimate goal of getting to the NBA, Booker will need to figure out a way to be a consistent force on the offensive end. Although that may be a challenge for the young guard, it would be foolish to think that Booker won’t fight to make his dreams become a reality.