COLLEGE PARK -- The 18-foot jumpers, delivered with near-flawless form, fall gently into the bottom of the net. The three-pointers, from behind an imaginary arc and from a distance used in the NBA, are made with more than respectable accuracy.
Then come the free throws.
"I want you to hit 26 of 30," Andy Enfield tells his latest disciple.
After two of the first three are missed, the shooter screams in mock horror.
Then he bears down.
One, two 33 in a row.
"I can't say I've ever made that many," says the shooter.
The shooter is Keith Booth.
Three days a week, the former Maryland basketball star comes to an auxiliary gym at Cole Field House to work with Enfield, the former John Hopkins player turned shooting guru. The other four days, Booth works out on his own.
With this year's NBA draft less than a month away, Booth hopes to show pro scouts and general managers during individual workouts and a camp for selected players what he failed to demonstrate during his senior year as a Terrapin: that he can be as effective outside as inside.
"Whenever you move up to the next level, whether it's from high school to college or from college to the pros, there's always part of you that's relearning the game, polishing up the things you need to be successful," says Booth. "You just want to improve as much as you can."
Despite shooting 45.6 percent from the field during his career, Booth's jump shot was always thought to be suspect, the part of his game that could prevent him from making the NBA. As Booth got better overall, his three-point shot got a lot worse. He went from 11 of 27 as a freshman to one of 21 as a senior.
It got to the point where it was painful to watch Booth anytime he pulled up from outside 10 feet last season. Though he was one of the dominant players in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was named third-team All-America, opponents didn't have to defend him away from the basket.
"I don't regret anything I did at the University of Maryland. I was more effective at my position [inside]," says Booth. "My goal was to help my team win. I didn't improve my skills on the perimeter, but I believe I was a good all-around player."
Booth was one of the best all-around players in school history, finishing sixth in points (1,776), fourth in rebounding (916) and second in steals (193). But there are a lot of players with similar stats filling up rosters in the Continental Basketball Association or spending their professional careers overseas.
Those are still options Booth might have to consider in order to fulfill his dream. He will have an opportunity to impress scouts during workouts with individual teams -- he was in Milwaukee yesterday and is scheduled to work out for the Cleveland Cavaliers next week -- and could also boost his stock during the pre-draft camp in Chicago, June 3 through 9. As of now, Booth could be anywhere from a late first-round choice to a mid-second-round pick in the NBA's two-round draft.
"Guys will rise and fall based on their performance," says New Jersey Nets general manager John Nash, who watched Booth often throughout his career at Maryland and, more recently, at an all-star camp in Phoenix. "I think he has a chance to be an NBA player whether that means getting drafted or going to the CBA or to Europe. I think he's a kid who coaches would like better than scouts."
At 6 feet 5 and 225 pounds, Booth is strong enough to play at small forward and quick enough to defend many big guards. According to scouts, he handles the ball well enough to play either position. Booth is compared most often with Vincent Askew, who has played for a handful of teams despite his lack of an outside shot.
Enfield, who set the NCAA record for career free-throw accuracy during a career at Hopkins that ended in 1991, says that Booth is a quick study and a hard worker. Brought in by Booth's agent, David Falk, Enfield has seen noticeable improvement in the month they've worked together.
"He was a very streaky shooter," says Enfield, who until recently was the full-time shooting coach for the Milwaukee Bucks. "We're working on some adjustments in his technique. Right now, he's consistent from 19 to 20 feet. By the end of the summer, we're looking at a guy who'll be able to shoot the pro three."
When their sessions started last month, Booth could not consistently hit a seemingly simple two-footer in a drill Enfield calls "Around The World," which requires the shooter not to use any part of the backboard. Now, Booth actually looks like a shooter, with his shoulders squared, his right hand following through, his feet in proper position.
Not that he doesn't regress at times. After hitting four straight mid-range jumpers to start one drill last week, Booth missed 11 straight. But a simple reminder from Enfield got Booth back in sync, and the shots began to fall. Whether Booth can get back on track without Enfield could be the key to his immediate future.
"I can feel the difference when I'm shooting the ball right," says Booth. "I'm going to keep working at it."
Booth will likely take at least one day off this week. That will be today when Booth will "walk" during graduation ceremonies at Cole Field House, where his jersey number 22 was raised to the rafters after his last home game at Maryland. A criminal justice major, Booth is six credits shy of graduating and plans to complete his degree this summer.
"It's like completing a race, and I'm close to the finish line," says Booth. "But until I cross it, I won't be satisfied."
Pub Date: 5/22/97