Clemson will have to move on without leading scorer Trevor Booker after this season, but the perfect replacement for the senior may already be emerging.
Freshman Devin Booker has become a strong complement for his older brother during Clemson’s five-game winning streak, and the siblings will try to lead the 21st-ranked Tigers to another victory over South Carolina State on Tuesday night in their final tuneup before starting ACC play.
Trevor Booker has racked up nearly 1,500 points in his four seasons at Clemson. His 31-point effort last Tuesday in a 79-57 win over Western Carolina was one short of his career high.
He was 11 of 13 from the field in that game and added seven rebounds, but his younger brother also gained some attention. Devin Booker, a 6-foot-8 reserve, had 10 points and six rebounds in 14 minutes.
“He tried to outshine me, but I couldn’t let that happen,” Trevor Booker said.
That may not happen anytime soon, but Devin Booker has seen his minutes increase lately, shooting 17 of 24 (70.8 percent) from the field in the last four games while averaging 9.5 points in that stretch.
He helped Trevor key a 19-0 run in the second half against Western Carolina.
“One of the things we like to see our guys doing is playing for one another,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “And obviously those two, when they’re out on the floor together, they automatically bring that family playing for one another and that makes it fun and makes it better.”
The Tigers (11-2) have won five straight by an average of more than 23 points since a 76-74 home loss to Illinois on Dec. 2, moving back into the Top 25 and gaining momentum before the ACC season begins.
Clemson’s conference slate will open with a big challenge at No. 7 Duke on Sunday night, but first the Tigers will try to beat in-state foe South Carolina State for the fourth straight time.
The Bulldogs won 71-68 at Clemson on Dec. 11, 1999, but that hasn’t looked like a possibility in the last two meetings, which the Tigers have won by an average of 34 points. They prevailed 90-63 on Dec. 13, 2008, when Trevor Booker scored 18 points in 23 minutes while shooting 8 of 10 from the field.
This will be the fourth of seven straight road games for South Carolina State (6-3), which began that stretch with a 91-54 loss at Miami on Dec. 12. The Bulldogs bounced back to beat Furman in overtime, but fell 82-69 at Iowa in their most recent game Dec. 21.
Coach Tim Carter said his team’s lack of size - only one starter is taller than 6-foot-4 - was its biggest problem against the Hawkeyes, and that could also be an issue against the Booker brothers.
“We couldn’t handle (Iowa’s) size inside,” Carter told South Carolina State’s official athletics Web site. “We lost two tremendous inside players from last season (6-foot-7 forward Jason Johnson and 6-foot-8 center Josh Jackson) and we could have used them.”
This season’s Bulldogs are led by senior swingman Jason Flagler, who is averaging 16.4 points in his last five games, shooting 51.4 percent during that span.