Wizards’ Trevor Booker & Josh Howard Q+A
Booker & Howard catch up with SLAM after announcing the co-launch of their new summer tournament.
by Franklyn Calle / @FrankieC7
Having featured seven rookies, the Washington Wizards were one of the youngest teams in the League this past season. Aside from the seven newbies, the team was composed of four other players with three or less years of professional experience under their belts. The final outcome was a 23-59 regular season record and last place in the Southeast division of the Eastern Conference. But a lot more happened than the numbers can show. One of the very few veterans on the team took it upon himself to show the way for the younger guys. Eight-year veteran Josh Howard was able to build a close friendship with rookie Trevor Booker, particularly. Howard, who spent most of the season nursing a surgically repaired left knee, found himself contributing to the team in other ways. Howard served as a mental supporter to the young team. He especially kept Booker’s head straight and motivated him when the rookie out of Clemson wasn’t seeing much minutes. Howard was there to help him through the process and kept him ready for when he finally got minutes on the floor.
Booker now wants to give back to the same community that watched him grow and develop into the role model he is today. And Howard, who has experience with charity and foundation events, will be teaming up with him to host the Trevor Booker & Josh Howard Tru-Ballers 5on5 Basketball Tournament at Springfield Park in Mauldin, South Carolina. The showcase, which has invited teams of men ages 17 and up from across the country to participate for a grand prize of $5,000, will be held from Thursday, June 9th to Sunday, June 12th. Wizards teammates John Wall and Andray Blatch have committed to sponsoring the teams. All proceeds will go to The Trevor Booker Foundation and The Josh Howard Foundation. Booker, the 23rd overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, averaged 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 16+ minutes per game this past season.
Howard’s foundation will be hosting a variety of events this summer including his annual celebrity weekends in Dallas (TX) and in his hometown of Wisnton-Salem (NC). The Josh Howard Celebrity Weekend in Dallas will be held June 20-25. The festivities include a five-day youth basketball camp at the Sportsplex at Valley View beginning Monday, June 20. The Josh Howard All-Day Basketball Camp 2011 offers life skills training for children seven years and older. On Friday, June 24, local and national comedians will be showcased in a comedy show held at the Gilly’s Dallas’ Palladium Ballroom. Headliners include Tyler Craig, Double D., Lil Duval, and Dallas native Success. The celebrity game on Saturday, June 25 will feature Cincinnati Bengal Terrell Owens, Denver Nuggets Kenyon Martin, Dallas Cowboys Martellus Bennett, and Chanita Foster of VH1’s Football Wives, among many others.
Howard’s Celebrity Weekend in Winston-Salem will be held July 27-31. The festivities include a free two-day youth basketball camp at the Hanes Hosiery Community Center, which will provide 100 local kids with basketball drills and life skills preparations. On Saturday, July 30, Howard will host its celebrity flag football game and autograph signing at Wake Forest University’s BB&T Field. Celebrity and athlete guests include Wizards’ John Wall and Trevor Booker, actor Lamman Rucker, BET’s Big Tigger and Alicia Renee, radio personalities B-Daht, Kyle Santillion, Tap Money and Big Moe from 102 JAMZ and Councilman Derwin Montgomery. General admission for the game is $5. A live concert will be held on Saturday night at the Hawthorn Inn Hotel featuring rapper Doug E. Fresh beginning at 10pm. Tickets for the concert are being sold for $20. The 2011 National Black Theatre Festival will join the Josh Howard Celebrity Weekend to wrap up its festivities with a private reception on Sunday, July 31 – with Winston-Salem’s Mayor Allen Joines scheduled to co-host.
All ticket and registration information are available at www.Joshhowardweekend.com.
Trevor Booker (right)
SLAM: What was the motivation behind hosting this tournament?
Trevor Booker: Basically, I just wanted to do something in South Carolina for the people. Kevin Garnett used to always do something in the summer and I always used to attend those events. So now I wanted to do something like that.
SLAM: When did you and Josh agreed on this?
TB: I think it was either before the season started or early in the season. Josh – he’s always been close to me. I knew that it wouldn’t be a problem to find him and get him to help me out.
SLAM: What do you hope to accomplish by hosting this tournament?
TB: I just wanted to give people something to do. I wanted to give them something to look forward to, hopefully, every summer. And hopefully it grows each tournament.
SLAM: How would you sum up your first year as a pro?
TB: My first year, it was kind of difficult. We didn’t do too well. We saw some improvement towards the end of the season. And I liked my progression towards the end of the season, although I got hurt at the end of the season. I think we have a lot to look forward to next year.
SLAM: As far as the NBA Draft is concern: is there any position or players the Wizards should be paying close attention to?
TB: I just know that we are a young team and experience alone will help us out a lot next year.
SLAM: Through your personal experience, how would you compare the college game to the pros?
TB: Pretty much, every player you play against is smart and knows the game. In college, you had descent players but not everybody knew the game as much. So just basically players knowing the game and being real smart.
SLAM: What part of your game are you looking forward to working on this summer?
TB: I’m trying to work on my three-man skills. I played a lot of four this year but I also played some three. So if I could develop that three-man skill more, then I think I could get more minutes on the court.
SLAM: Any specific tournament you looked forward to the most growing up?
TB: Playing AAU ball, I use to look forward to every summer. I use to just like hanging out with the guys and playing with the guys. AAU was something I would look forward to in the summer. If I had to pick one, I would probably say the AAU Nationals. That’s where the best players come out. So you definitely had to bring your A-game.
SLAM: How was it growing up in South Carolina?
TB: Well, I’m a country boy. Actually, right now as we’re doing this interview, I’m out fishing with my dad. So I grew up deep in the country.
SLAM: You mentioned that you were closest to Josh on the team. What did you try to learn from him?
TB: Basically, in the beginning I wasn’t playing too and he told to keep my head up. He just kept encouraging me throughout the season. He gave me pointers here and there. But the thing I got from him is just encouragement. And it helped me out a lot because when they started playing me more, I was ready when they called my number.
SLAM: How comfortable were you out there in those selected minutes you got?
TB: Those minutes I played throughout the season helped me out a lot because each time I got on the court I became a better player. So just getting those minutes that I wasn’t getting early, it was frustrating me because I felt that I could help the team, and when I finally got those minutes, I just tried to do the best that I could.
SLAM: What are your expectations for next season?
TB: I think we can definitely make the playoffs next year. So I think that would be a goal of ours. We saw so much improvement toward the end of the season, just the last few games. I definitely think we can make the playoffs and I think my teammates do too.