Dec. 13, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Boca Raton, Fla.
South Carolina’s Frank Booker is well-traveled, but he has found a home with the Gamecocks.
“I’m really happy here,” Booker said. “I couldn’t ask to be in a better place with a better culture and better teammates.”
Born in Iceland, he moved to Augusta, Ga., with his father as a youngster. He started his college career at Oklahoma and helped the Sooners reach the Sweet 16 before transferring to Florida Atlantic University. After earning his degree, he still had a year of eligibility and accepted an offer to come play for the Gamecocks where he is now thriving as a dangerous 3-point shooter.
“I was going to go overseas and be a professional somewhere else,” Booker said. “Then I got a call from Coach Frank [Martin]. I came on my visit, and once you meet Coach Frank, you know what you’re going to get. I’ve gotten exactly what I thought I was going to get from him, and he’s just an awesome coach.”
Booker was born in Iceland as his father, Frank, played professional basketball there. The elder Booker starred at Bowling Green and was drafted by the New Jersey Nets in 1987 before playing overseas. The younger Booker went back and forth between Iceland, living with his mother, Thorunn Jonsdittir, and the United States, where he lived with his father.
Not everything in life is going to happen the way you want it. You have to fight through it, just like a basketball game.
“I went back and forth when I was younger, so I got the best of both worlds,” Booker said. “There wasn’t really a span where I was in one place too long. Although, when I did first come here, I didn’t know any English. That was probably the only culture shock I had to deal with.
“It was tough growing up and not always having my mother around and having that mother-figure there. I guess it helped me grow up and understand that that’s life. Not everything in life is going to happen the way you want it. You have to fight through it, just like a basketball game. Every game isn’t going to go like you want, so you just have to fight through it.”
He continued that fight in his college career. Back problems plagued him in his two years at Oklahoma, which resulted in surgery.
“It hurt me, but I bounced back through faith and through my diligence in my rehab,” Booker said. “Being home with my dad and my family helped a lot, too.”
Booker has four brothers and three sisters, so he has always known what it’s like to be part of a team. Wherever he has played, Booker has gained the reputation as a team-player, and even when he’s on the bench, he has a coach-like mentality and is very active in supporting his teammates.
“That’s always how I’ve been,” Booker said. “Even if you’re on the bench, I feel like you can actually learn from what the other guys are doing. You can see things that you didn’t see while you were on the floor. When you’re on the bench, if you’re not talking and being full engaged, there’s no point in being in uniform. When I’m on the bench, I try to cheer my guys on and give all I have.”
When he’s done at South Carolina, Booker will look for opportunities to play professionally, whether it’s here, Iceland (like his father), or anywhere else that gives him a chance.
“I did a little digging to see what my dad did,” Booker said. “When my dad was over there, he did a lot of great things. So that would be fun.
“It’s really beautiful in Iceland. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. There’s not a lot of crime. It’s cold of course in the winter, but in the summer, it’s pretty nice. There are a lot of mountains and a lot of things to see.
“The difference between Iceland and here is peace of mind. It’s just real peaceful there.”
Booker plans to return to Iceland over the summer to visit his mother. For now, he is finding peace and his game with the Gamecocks. He hasn’t forgotten where he came from, or where he’s been since, and he is simply enjoying the “now.”
“It’s one of those things where I guess I have a story to tell, and I guess it’s pretty unique,” Booker said.
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