By Joseph Staszewski
Malik Boothe was told all season by his Take No Prisoners teammates that they were going to go as far as the former St. John’s University and Christ the King star would take them.
Where they ended up was on top of the Nike Pro City pro-am basketball league for the first time in the program’s history Aug. 7 at Baruch College.
Boothe took his play up a notch in TNP’s 126-112 victory over Primetime. The 5-foot-8 point guard scored 10 of his 20 points in the first quarter, dished out nine assists and grabbed six rebounds to earn MVP honors. Boothe wowed the crowd when he crossed over between two defenders and was hit, but knocked down a floater as part of a three-point play with 6:18 left in the game.
“He played phenomenal,” former Molloy guard and TNP teammate Sundiata Gaines said. “That’s not usually a level I am accustomed to seeing him at. He was the real reason we won the game.”
Boothe’s play set the tone early. He scored on drives, in transition and made mid-ranger jumpers. TNP grabbed a 30-19 lead after the first quarter that it would not relinquish. Primetime tied the score once on a floater by former McClancy and LIU star Atwon Dobie that made it 73-73 with 5:03 to go in the third quarter. They never led in the game. Booth thought he opened things up for his teammates.
“It just got me in a good rhythm, got me comfortable,” he said.
Boothe’s biggest play came late in the fourth quarter. He drove to the baseline with the shot clock winding down and found Gaines along the right side for an open three-pointer. His shot rolled around the rim and went in to give TNP a 121-110 lead with 1:25 left in the game.
“It was a better pass,” Gaines said. “The shot came easy.”
It was part of a big fourth quarter for a late arriving Gaines, who has played with four different NBA teams. Traffic caused him to arrive in the second quarter and defer to his teammates early. He went on to score 11 of his 15 points in the final frame. Former Iona College star Mike Glover added 23 points and 16 rebounds for TNP. Dobie had 23 points and Shelton Cowell led all scorers with 39 points and 11 rebounds for Primetime.
Boothe was still by far the game’s biggest star and will carry that momentum with him to his first professional season overseas. He will play in Canada with the Halifax Rainmen. TNP Coach Jeffrey Taylor believes there is no better time for him to have this opportunity.
“It feels like he is on his way,” he said. “At 25 he came into his own. He played like a different guy all season.”
Winning gave Boothe a feeling of redemption. Two years ago TNP lost in the semifinal without him because of injury. Last season the team did not make the playoffs. With a healthy and motivated Boothe in the lineup, they were able to finally hoist the trophy. He delivered just like his teammates and coaches thought he would.
“Every game for the whole season my teammates were telling me I was the driving force for us, that I was doing a great job leading us,” Boothe said. “We were going to go as far as I took us. We won. I guess I did a pretty good job.”