Brian Booker was an outstanding player as an Ardmore Tiger. Now, he returns home as the opposition.
The 24-year-old Ardmore alumnus is in his first year as an assistant coach at Western Heights, where the Jets have started 2-1 and are currently ranked 17th in Class 5A.
Booker and the Jets will play Wichita Falls Hirschi in the first round of the Ardmore Holiday Festival today. Booker was a three-year starter at forward for the Tigers basketball team from 2003-2007.
"We always played hard and played good defense," Booker said of the Ardmore basketball teams. "We had a lot of teams where he stressed that we weren't going to win unless we played as a team.
"It was always a family environment — teamwork, good effort and have a good attitude."
Prior to joining the Jets' coaching staff, Booker graduated from Central Oklahoma in May of 2012, where he also played football (Booker was also an All-State tight end and defensive lineman for Ardmore). In addition to his boys basketball duties, he is currently a physical education teacher, head eighth-grade basketball coach and an assistant varsity football coach at Western Heights.
Booker said he's tried to bring the same lessons to Western Heights that he learned from playing under current Ardmore coach Mark Wilson.
"Brian played on some really good basketball teams and was a really good football player as well," Wilson said. "He contributed in a lot of ways. He had a really good career; he wasn't the tallest, but he always battled the big guys."
A veteran of many Holiday Festival games, Booker said his most memorable moment from the Holiday Festival was hitting a 3-pointer his senior year in 2006 against Del City to send the game to overtime.
Ardmore ended up losing that contest, but Booker, who was an interior player, will never forget that unlikely shot.
Neither will Wilson.
"He could shoot a little bit too," Wilson said. "It's not a shot that he normally took, but it was one of those deals that the ball ended up in his hands and he was fortunate enough to knock it down."
"It was a crazy shot," Booker said. "It was a long 3-pointer that shouldn't have went in, but it did."
The only way Ardmore and Western Heights will play is on Saturday in any of four games, from the seventh-place game to the championship. The two teams are on opposite sides of the bracket.
Booker said that if the Tigers and Jets do manage to meet up at some time this weekend, it'll certainly be a different feeling.
"I grew up there, went to school there, and played in that gym for three years," Booker said. "It's gonna be kinda weird, but I'll always be a Tiger at heart."