Colorado’s Askia Booker dunks against Oregon on Sunday in Boulder.
Colorado's Askia Booker dunks against Oregon on Sunday in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera)

Askia Booker made a move to get past his defender, launched a shot while on the run and stopped to watch the ball sink through the nylon.

Booker's 3-pointer on Dec. 7 beat the buzzer, shocked the Kansas Jayhawks, sent the Coors Events Center crowd into a frenzy, and lifted the Colorado men's basketball team into the national rankings.

That shot, and that win, were huge for the Buffaloes (13-2), who moved into the rankings the next week. On Monday, they jumped up to No. 15 in the Associated Press poll. But, it may have been even bigger for Booker, a 6-foot-1 junior guard from Los Angeles.

"I do think that shot against Kansas, and the positive reinforcements he got from his teammates and from the media and from everybody -- it was such a high-profile game and a high-profile shot -- it's almost been like a boost in his arm," CU head coach Tad Boyle said.

Prior to that game against the Jayhawks, who came to Boulder ranked No. 6 in the country, Booker struggled.

Coming off a disappointing sophomore season, Booker's shooting woes continued into this season. In the nine games before KU came to town, Booker averaged 11.4 points per game, while hitting just 37.6 percent of his shots (38-of-101), including 23.8 percent (10-of-42) from 3-point range.


During the past month, though, Booker has taken his game to another level. Beginning with the KU game, he has averaged 16.8 points in the past six contests. Along the way, he has connected on 46.7 percent of his shots (35-of-75), including 38.5 percent from 3-point range (10-of-26).

"It's very fun," Booker said of his performance in recent weeks. "Coach has been telling me to just stay aggressive. He doesn't want me to change up anything that I've been doing, because I do work on my game and I think it's starting to show really big. I have the ultimate confidence in myself lately. When the shot's falling, it makes the game a little easier on myself and my teammates, because they don't have to do as much."

Booker was named Pac-12 Player of the Week after his game-winner against Kansas. He got the honor again on Monday, after his career-high 27 points helped the Buffs knock off No. 10 Oregon on Sunday.

"It's good to be noticed," Booker said.

There has been a noticeable difference in Booker since his dramatic shot against Kansas.

Although always a confident player, Booker's shooting struggles clearly weighed on him early in the season.

"Even the most confident people, when they struggle you can start to feel it, in their body language and the way they carry themselves," teammate Spencer Dinwiddie said. "I think that was a big shot for him. Ever since then, he's been very efficient."

A foot injury limited Booker to 13 minutes in the next game, against Elon. But, after that one, he suggested privately that he was about to bust loose, and he's certainly done that.

In addition to his scoring, Booker has had two games with four assists in recent weeks, one with four steals, and he collected seven rebounds on Sunday against Oregon.

"I think I'm starting to realize that it's not just scoring, but if I am scoring it's great for the team," he said. "I have to do other things for us to win. If I'm going to be on the floor playing 30 minutes, I have to figure out something else besides scoring."

Booker didn't often think that way a year ago. He made just 36.4 percent of his shots last season, and just 31.2 percent from 3-point range. His slump lasted through almost the entire second half of the season, and it impacted other parts of his game.

"There's times during his career, certainly last year, that (Booker's confidence) was shaken," Boyle said. "This year early maybe at times, it was shaken."

This year, however, Booker didn't get too down and he continued to do other good things, whether it was passing the ball, rebounding or defending.

"He's handled it much better this year than he did last year -- mentally and his body language and his attitude," Boyle said. "It's a sign of maturity."

Following Sunday's win, Dinwiddie said that Booker is the key to CU's game.

"When Ski plays really well, we play really well," Dinwiddie said. "When he's down, we struggle."

That was not a new revelation to Booker, who sat next to Dinwiddie during the postgame press conference. During CU's summer program with the Navy SEALS, Booker earned an award for his leadership and the impact he had on the rest of the group. It was an award he nearly earned in 2012, too.

"I was the energy that everybody needed and I was willing to take on any challenge that they asked me to do," Booker said.

Booker is starting to realize that his impact on the team is a big one and that the Buffs need him to keep playing like he's played in recent weeks.

"It's a burden, but at the same time if you don't take on that challenge, everything goes down hill," he said. "I'm not willing to let my team do that."

Considering the success CU has had to this point, the next couple of months could be special for the Buffaloes, and Booker would like to make sure of it.

"Hopefully I can keep doing this for the sake of the team, and not just for myself," he said.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or