It's been a little over a month since Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Carlos Boozer helped lead the Duke Blue Devils to the NCAA national basketball championship. Now Boozer wants a second title.
Since the season ended, there had been some speculation in the national media that Boozer might join the growing list of college underclassmen to declare their eligibility for the NBA draft in June. But during an interview Tuesday at JDHS, Boozer said he plans to return to school and will be back for his junior season.
"We're all coming back, except the seniors," said Boozer, who will be two classes short of a degree in social psychology after the 2001-02 school year. "We'd talked about it (going pro), but I've got a couple of things left to prove in college. And I want to get my education."
Boozer was in Juneau showing the town off to his fiance, Cindy "CeCe" Blackwell, and visiting old friends. On Monday, he was presented with a resolution from the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly that honored him for his role in Duke's national championship.
As a 6-foot-9, 270-pound sophomore center, Boozer led the Atlantic Coast Conference in field goal percentage (.604) while finishing as Duke's third-leading scorer (13.3 points per game) and second-leading rebounder (6.5 per game). He was the MVP of the Preseason NIT and ended up an honorable mention choice on the all-ACC team for the second straight year.
"I'm having fun at Duke," Boozer said. "We're getting better. We've got great chemistry and one of the best coaches in history."
Boozer had a roller-coaster ride during the 2000-01 season.
During the summer he'd been one of the last players cut from the USA Basketball Young Men's World Championship Qualifying Team, and he used that snub to open the season as Duke's leading scorer. However, toward the middle of the season he had a couple of ineffective games against Stanford and North Carolina.
In February, Duke trailed Maryland by 10 with only a minute left to play, but the Blue Devils rallied to win the game. But in the game's aftermath, some Maryland fans started throwing items at the Duke bench and cheering section behind the bench. Boozer's mother, Rene, was hit in the head by a glass bottle and Carlos said she's still recovering from some of the headaches that followed.
"It was mostly on a high," Boozer said of his season. "We played great, but there were certain games, like the Maryland game, where we weren't playing well but we had a great minute."
As the season was winding down, Boozer seemed to rekindle his fire. But in Duke's rematch with Maryland on Feb. 27 he went down with a broken metatarsal in his right foot. Before his freshman season, Boozer broke a metatarsal bone in his left foot and missed about eight weeks of preseason practice.
When he broke his foot this season, Boozer said he wasn't sure if he'd be back in time for Duke's run for the title. Boozer missed six games Duke's season finale against North Carolina, the ACC tournament and the first two games of the NCAA tournament. But he was able to return to a limited role in Duke's Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. By the Final Four, Boozer was back at full strength as he scored 19 points including nine straight in the decisive stretch of Duke's 95-84 victory over Maryland in the semifinals, then scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Blue Devils beat Arizona 82-72 for the national title.
"I got hurt, but everything happens for a reason because we all came together," Boozer said. "I've got to keep healthy now."
Boozer said this year's break wasn't as bad as his break before his freshman season, with this year's only being a hairline fracture at the top of the metatarsal while the other one went through the bone. He said great doctors helped his recovery. During his absence, Boozer said he wished he could be playing, but the team went 6-0 without him.
Duke posted a 35-4 record last year, although Boozer said there were times the Blue Devils could have been better. He said the team went through some adversity, and he thought that made the team better at the end of the season.
"As Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) said, we all came together as a fist and we stuck together," Boozer said. "We had a couple of injuries, but those happen during a basketball season. We were able to bounce back and we did what we had to do."
Boozer has been in Juneau playing tourist with his fiance and visiting old friends. But he said he's back to work next week. He starts summer school and working out for the 2001-02 campaign. He said he's likely to be invited to try out for the USA Basketball World Championship for Young Men team that will compete in Japan in August.
Boozer's family moved to Raleigh, N.C., last summer to be closer Carlos and his sister, who attends Westminster Choir College in New Jersey. Carlos said he appreciates having his family close by because they were able to give him some guidance during the season. But he said he still considers Juneau his home.
"It's good to be back home," Boozer said. "We went to the (Mendenhall) glacier and to Eaglecrest (Ski Area). It was great, and she got to see the mountains even if the weather wasn't that good. We went to Sandy Beach today and we went out the road, and we're going to try and ride the tram this afternoon. We've been seeing friends, but we've also been playing tourist."
Boozer also said he's looking forward to next year, when he plans to move to his more natural position of power forward. Boozer has been Duke's center the past two years, but he feels more comfortable as a power forward. When Boozer was sidelined, Casey Sanders was able to develop some confidence and Boozer expects Sanders and Matt Christiansen will play center next year.
"I'm not going to be guarding a lot of seven-footers anymore," Boozer said. "Casey can come in now, and I can move out and face the basket. We need some more development of our bench. We need some people to back us up."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
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