EMMITSBURG -- As a sophomore at Mount St. Mary's, the challenge for Kevin Booth was delivering points as a reserve, not a starter. He did just fine, averaging a team-high 18.5 points, most from long range, and earned second-team All-Northeast Conference honors.
This year, coach Jim Phelan wants Booth, a 6-foot junior, to play the point. He has been a shooting guard since his days at Salesianum High in Wilmington, Del., but Booth knows he might have to sacrifice his scoring average if the Mount is going to continue to improve in Division I.
"I prefer playing the two [shooting] guard," Booth said. "I played the point some at the end of last year, but this year I have to worry about what everyone else is doing on the floor even more."
Last year Booth set Mount St. Mary's records for three-pointers made, 89, and attempted, 188. With Cliff Warren, last year's floor leader, gone, Phelan is confident Booth can spread the wealth to other scorers like forward John Miller and swingman Alex Watson, and still get his own points.
"So many of our guys are excellent shooters, and someone has to get them the ball," Phelan said. "The times we used Kevin at the point last year, he wasn't certain what to do. Now, he knows who is supposed to get what shot, and when. He's a much more confident player."
Booth was hardly in awe of college hoops when he came to the Mount. As a high school freshman, his hobby was watching Villanova, where his father, Harry, was a volunteer assistant coach. That 1984-85 season was the one that ended with the Wildcats upsetting Georgetown in the NCAA final.
Harry Booth, who now makes a living in sales, played for the 1961 St. Joseph's University team that went to the Final Four. He also coached the Hawks from 1974-78. Like Phelan, he grew up in Philadelphia. They were separated by a decade, but only a few blocks.
"As a player, Harry was a bricklayer," Phelan said. "I don't know where Kevin learned how to shoot, but I'm glad he did."
The Booths make their home in West Chester, Pa., and Kevin knew several Coppin State players from the Chester playgrounds. Booth gave the parochial and prep schools a long look before deciding on a half-hour commute to Salesianum, where he averaged 21 points as a senior.
Booth headed to the Mount after Phelan told him things some 18-year-olds don't want to hear.
"He said if you're good, you'll get a chance to play," Booth said. "He also said that if he had the chance, he would try to bring in someone else who might be better. When you're being recruited you hear a lot of stuff that isn't always sincere, and what Phelan said made an impression."
Booth started 13 games and averaged 10.1 points as a freshman. That 1988-89 team, Phelan's first in Division I, went 12-15 thanks to an abundance of perimeter talent.
Booth started only six times last season, when Phelan got a 16-12 record out of a bunch that defied labels. Booth made at least one three-pointer in every game, and was second in the Northeast Conference in long-range marksmanship. He made 49.9 percent of his field goal attempts, a high rate for a guard.
Phelan had a precedent for instant offense off the bench. Between 1983-87, Mark Scallion became the only player in NCAA history to score 1,000 career points without ever starting a game.
"I know Mark Scallion," said Booth. "I heard so many stories about him last year. Coming off the bench was no big deal, because I was getting the minutes [31.6 a game]. Besides, I think that made me a better player in the second half."
Booth is hoping the second half of his college career goes as well as the first. He already has 771 career points, and could finish among the top 10 all-time scorers at the Mount. Be it as a starter or off the bench, playing the point or shooting guard, he's going to get the points.
MOUNT ST. MARY'S AT A GLANCE * Nickname: Mountaineers.
* Coach: Jim Phelan (679-309, 36 years).
* 1989-90 record: 16-12, 10-6 in conference.
* Conference: Northeast.
* Returnees: Kevin Booth, 6-0, Jr., G (18.5 ppg); Alex Watson, 6-3, Sr., G-F (11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg); John Miller, 6-5, Sr., F (13.3 ppg); Jeff Hall, 6-6, Jr., F (8.7 ppg); Bobby Hill, 6-4, Jr., F (5.7 ppg); Scott Murphy, 6-5, Sr., F; Dan Kalinowski, 6-11, Jr., C; Steve Kinney, 6-3, Sr., G; Doug John, 6-3, So., G; Dave Nanni, 6-8, So., C; Chris Cavanagh, 7-0, Sr., C.
* Newcomers: Anthony Carr, 6-7, So., F (transfer from Virginia Tech); Dave Kapaona, 6-3, Fr., G; Matt Meakin, 6-9, Fr., C; Chad Stull, 6-5, Fr., F.
* Strengths: As always, excellent outside shooting and all-around play on the perimeter. Phelan wonders how he'll get everyone playing time.
* Weaknesses: None of the Mount's big men have proven themselves in Division I. Not eligible for Northeast Conference playoffs until 1992, Phelan must keep players focused.
MOUNT ST. MARY'S SCHEDULE Tomorrow -- at Xavier, 7:35
Nov. 26 -- at Navy, 7
Nov. 30 -- vs. Loyola at Beltway tourney, 6
Dec. 1 -- at Beltway tourney, 6 or 8
Dec. 4 -- George Mason, 7:30
Dec. 8 -- at N.C. State, 7:30
Dec. 15 -- James Madison, 2
Dec. 19 -- Holy Cross, 7:30
Dec. 27 -- Rider, 7:30
Dec. 29 -- Colgate, 7:30
Jan. 8 -- Monmouth, 7:30
Jan. 10 -- Wagner, 7:30
Jan. 12 -- at Long Island, 7:30
Jan. 14 -- at St. Francis (N.Y.), 7:30
Jan. 17 -- Fairleigh Dickinson, 7:30
zTC Jan. 19 -- Marist, 7:30
Jan. 22 -- at St. Francis (Pa.), 7:30
Jan. 24 -- at Robert Morris, 7:30
Feb. 2 -- St. Francis (N.Y.), 7:30
Feb. 4 -- Long Island, 7:30
Feb. 7 -- at Wagner, 7:30
Feb. 9 -- at Monmouth, 7:30
Feb. 11 -- at Bucknell, 7:30
Feb. 14 -- at Marist, 8
Feb. 16 -- at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7:30
Feb. 21 -- Robert Morris, 7:30
Feb. 23 -- St. Francis (Pa.), 7:30