For Booth, title has nice ring to it Though played sparingly, Bulls rookie enjoying learning from greats

June 13, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- Asked what he would do if the Chicago Bulls win the NBA title, Keith Booth was speechless.

"I haven't really thought about it," Booth said. "Just like a year ago, when I never really thought Booth about being here."

A year ago, after the completion of his stellar four-year career at Maryland, Booth was awaiting the NBA draft. Most pundits predicted the former Dunbar High standout from East Baltimore would be selected in the second round, where job security is scarce.

But Booth was a surprise Bulls pick with the 29th -- and last -- selection of the first round, which comes with a guaranteed pTC three-year contract. Although Booth has been on the injured list much of the year, playing in just six games for a total of 17 minutes, he has had the opportunity to learn from the likes of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

"I haven't played a lot but I couldn't have gotten a better experience for a first year," Booth said. "It doesn't get any better than this -- to learn from these guys and really see what it's like to win at this level. What I learned from these guys, both on and off the court, will help me in the long run."

Although Booth hasn't been on the roster for much of the year, he hasn't felt alienated. He has been with the team for all games, sitting on the bench. And Booth practices with the team every day, even during the NBA Finals, running plays while being guarded by Jordan or Pippen.

"That helps you, confidence-wise, to go against Michael and Scottie every day," Booth said. "The practices, to me, are sometimes better and more intense than the games. Sometimes we really get at it, and everybody is talking trash. You really have no choice but to get better."

And watching Booth shooting jumpers after practice, you can notice an extension and accuracy of his range that, at Maryland, was limited.

"All of this will help in the long run," he said.

For the potential clincher last night, Booth's mother, Norma Salmon, flew in from Baltimore. Last week, former Dunbar and Maryland teammate Rodney Elliott, who was in Chicago for the pre-draft camp, hung out with Booth for a couple of days.

For Booth, this has been a tremendous ride, which has gotten closer to the promise made to him when he was spotted looking awkward by Jordan during the ring ceremony for the 1997 team.

" 'Hey, KB,' " Jordan told him. " 'Don't worry about it, kid. We'll get you one.' "

"Yeah, he made me that promise back in November," Booth said with a laugh. "It just goes to show that a guy with his skills has so much confidence in himself and his team. I'm just happy I have had a chance to be a part of this."

Pub Date: 6/13/98

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