Trevor Booker on his ‘idol’ Kevin Garnett

I still look up to KG. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

Trevor Booker can’t really remember how old he was when he first met Kevin Garnett. He only recalls that when Garnett hosted a basketball tournament in Mauldin, S.C., Booker was too shy to even ask for an autograph.

“I was actually scared to talk to him,” Booker said. “So my mom had to do it for me.”

Garnett gave Booker the autograph, and watching Garnett giving back to his community during his early years in the NBA encouraged Booker to follow the same path when he entered the league. The past two summers, Booker has hosted a weekend-long charity basketball tournament on the same court as Garnett once did – even though Mauldin is about 50 miles from Booker’s hometown of Whitmire.

Booker also now shares the same agent as Garnett, Andy Miller, so he doesn’t have the same problem speaking to a 36-year-old, future Hall of Famer that he continues to admire.

“I talk to him now,” Booker said with a laugh. “He was my idol growing up, so it’s always different listening to your idol. It’s a big thing for me, with him being from South Carolina and me being from South Carolina. And me growing up, watching him play.”

Garnett remains effective, even in his 18th season. He had 15 points and seven rebounds and helped welcome rookie Bradley Beal – born almost two years before Garnett was drafted – to the NBA during the Wizards’ 89-86 loss to the Celtics last Saturday, when he slapped Beal’s layup attempt off the backboard.

Booker is about six inches shorter than the 6-foot-13 Garnett (he refuses to be listed as a 7-footer), and played four years at Clemson rather than entering the league straight out of high school. He doesn’t have a personal relationship with Garnett but he has respect for his intensity and longevity.

“His passion for the game. You can tell he’s always talking to himself and he gets hype a lot. I do the same thing,” Booker said. “He took care of his body, I’m not sure what he did, but he’s been in the league for while.”

Going up against Garnett helped bring out a better performance from Booker than his debut in Cleveland. Booker was the only starter to have a decent game in the defeat, contributing a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He felt a need to bounce back after a rough outing against the Cavaliers, as he had just four points, one rebound and four turnovers.

“I was pretty down after that Cleveland game and that’s what I tried to focus on,” Booker said, as the Wizards prepare for a rematch with Garnett and the Celtics tonight at TD Garden. “I think I did a pretty good job of bringing energy.”

Garnett has several fans on the Wizards’ coaching staff as well, with former teammate Sam Cassell and former Minnesota Timberwolves coaches Randy Wittman, Jerry Sichting and Don Zierden. Wittman had three separate stints in Minnesota and only got to be Garnett’s head coach for 42 games before the Timberwolves traded him to Boston in the summer of 2007.

“He’s been a pretty lucky guy from an injury standpoint, to withstand the years he’s played, the way he plays. That’s one thing people don’t realize: He plays as hard as anybody and to not have serious injuries … is remarkable,” Wittman said. “But that’s a testament to him. He’s a guy that, this is a 12-month a year job for him and he takes care of his body. Takes care of himself. Always has. One of those guys, you never see him in trouble or hear stories about him off the floor and that’s just who is and why he’s had the success he’s had.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.

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Michael Lee · November 7, 2012