The ball caromed off the rim and toward the hands of Evan Eschmeyer, the New Jersey Nets' second-round pick out of Northwestern. Seemingly out of nowhere, Wizards second-round pick Calvin Booth jumped over Eschmeyer and tipped the ball in for the decisive basket in Washington's 93-90 summer league victory Tuesday evening.
It was an in-your-face play by Booth, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound center from Penn State who was selected one pick after Eschmeyer, his college nemesis. Booth refused to taunt him, though.
Booth said he would rather let his game speak for itself. But like the soft-spoken rookie's voice, the volume of his game needs to be raised.
"He has to be a bit more aggressive offensively and he's got to get better in the low post," Washington Coach Gar Heard said. "I think he's got the shot that can work in the NBA. He seems like he's getting more confident the more he plays.
"Right now he's playing against guys that are trying to make it in the NBA. Some of these guys have played in the league, but once he gets in there with the veterans, he'll see what it's all about."
Heard's son, Gyasi Cline-Heard, played with Booth at Penn State the past two seasons, and it was Booth's strength as a shot blocker that led Heard to help persuade the Wizards to select Booth when he slipped to the 35th pick.
Now Heard must quickly get Booth to play at an NBA level. The Wizards used power forwards Terry Davis and Ben Wallace at center the past two seasons, but Heard wants to return them to their natural positions. As of now, Jahidi White, a second-round pick last year from Georgetown, and John Coker are their only centers. Washington hopes to sign a serviceable veteran free agent center, but the pool is shallow, as are the Wizard
"I'm really motivated," Booth said. "I think this is a great opportunity for me. I'm trying to do my best to take advantage of it. Washington is looking for someone to step into the middle and help them."
Booth's 428 blocks rank fifth in NCAA history and he has shown some impressive offensive skills in a week's worth of mini-camp and summer league games.
At issue is Booth's lack of strength and aggressiveness. Heard, who had a nasty streak that served him well in his 11 years as a player, said he can work on toughening Booth's mental state. The rest is up to Booth and new strength coach Andrew Cleary.
"A lot of what I need to do is related to conditioning and strength," Booth said. "Being in shape can make up for a lack of strength and I'm getting in the shape that I need to be in. I'm seeing that things are different, though."
Booth has improved in each of Washington's three summer league games. He had game-highs in points (17 points) and rebounds (eight) in today's 83-63 victory over a German Select team. He had six points and four rebounds in the Wizards' victory over New Jersey.
"I have to give him credit," said Eschmeyer, who scored 12 points and grabbed three rebounds against Washington. "He's done as much as any player that I've seen in the four years I've known him in developing his offensive game. If he continues to improve, he's going to be a good player. I think the stretch game of the NBA will help him a lot because he can cover a lot of ground, especially with his long arms.
"He also has put a ton of weight on in four years. If he continues to do that, and get stronger at the same time, he's going to be a nice player in the NBA."
Wizards Notes: Second-year forward Randell Jackson sprained his right ankle three minutes into the game with the German select team and did not return. . . .
Coker, who finished this past season with the Wizards, did not play because of a sore right ankle.