Boone feels right at home in summer Pulley League

Brett Angel

For Rene Pulley, there’s nothing new about seeing Adam Boone outsmart his opponents on the basketball court.

He’s been watching it happen for more than a decade.

Boone, projected to be the starting point guard this season for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team, has been putting his hardwood IQ on display since his days in Pulley’s junior league during the mid-1990s.

“He’s not as great an athlete as some of the other players, but he’s smarter than them,” Pulley said. “That’s his greatest asset.”

Boone earned Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball as a senior at Minnetonka High School in 2000 before taking his game to the University of North Carolina.

But after his sophomore season with the Tar Heels in which he averaged 7.2 points and 3.2 assists, Boone decided to transfer back to his home state and become a Gopher.

“I just needed a situation where I was more comfortable as a player,” Boone said. “Coming back here (to Minnesota) was only natural.”

Due to NCAA rules, Boone was forced to sit out last season.

But each of the past two summers he found competition by playing in Howard Pulley’s Nike Pro City League – back under the watchful eye of his longtime friend, Rene Pulley.

“Just watching Adam grow has been something great to see,” Pulley said. “He’s one of the best players in the league. There’s no doubt about it.”

Minnesota players Michael Bauer, Moe Hargrow and Jeff Hagen all play in the league regularly. So do pro athletes such as Khalid El-Amin and former pro John Thomas.

Boone played with Bauer on last year’s league championship team, but this summer decided to play for a team whose roster lacks any high-profile names.

With Boone running the point, his team reached the league semifinals before losing consecutive games Tuesday and Wednesday and being eliminated from the playoffs.

Hargrow, in attendance at Tuesday’s game, got a taste of Boone’s skills on a daily basis last season.

“He used to kill us in practice,” Hargrow said. “He’s a floor general. Nine times out of 10 he’ll do the right thing with the ball.”

Boone’s intelligence is what separates him from his competitors on the court, but it’s his leadership that has Minnesota coaches and teammates anxiously awaiting his first game wearing maroon and gold.

“I feel like I can be a leader on any team,” Boone said. “It’s not something I try to do; that’s just part of my nature.”

“That’s what you need out of a point guard,” Hargrow said.

Boone said his game feels solid and that his skills have progressed since his time at North Carolina.

Having a true point guard in the starting lineup will be a new experience for the Gophers under head coach Dan Monson, who has been forced to convert players such as Kevin Burleson to the point out of necessity.

That recent scarcity of point guards coupled with Boone’s rare combination of intelligence and leadership has some Gophers fans drooling.

But it’s doubtful anyone is more anxious for that first game of the season than Boone.

“I would have been anxious last year, but after sitting out a year I just can’t wait at this point,” Boone said.

Neither can his team.

Brett Angel welcomes comments at [email protected]