STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton has landed one of the top junior college guards in the country, as head coach Billy Gillispie announced the signing of New Mexico JC star Jordan “Tiger” Booker on Wednesday.
Originally from Chicago, Booker arrives in Stephenville on the heels of a spectacular sophomore campaign in the Land of Enchantment. He brings three years of collegiate playing experience to Tarleton, having suited up for Odessa College and LeMoyne-Owen College as well.
“I’m most excited about playing for Tarleton because of the family feel I felt while I was on my visit,” Booker said. “While I was there, I noticed how everyone I spoke to said Tarleton as a whole is a family and they support each other. I actually felt that and could tell it’s the truth, so playing somewhere like Tarleton and knowing the support I’ll receive is very exciting.
“I’m also excited to play for coach Gillispie because of his history and where he has been as a coach,” Booker continued. “He has coached at the highest level of college basketball and that alone makes it exciting to play for a coach like him. I also know that coach Gillispie will make sure that I graduate while also helping me continue my basketball career after Tarleton. Overall, I’m excited about the whole situation and feel like there was no better choice for me than Tarleton.”
Booker will be a junior and have two years to play two seasons at Tarleton.
“We are so excited to have Tiger join us,” Gillispie said. “He has all the attributes that great players have. His mentality that he possesses is exactly what any winning program wants. He can do it himself, but all he really wants to do is make his teammates better and WIN. Tarleton is grateful to have a person, student, and player like Tiger, and we can’t wait to see him play.”
Booker led New Mexico JC in scoring at 16.7 points per outing across 26 starts in 28 games under head coach Luke Adams, who played for Gillispie at Texas Tech during the 2011-2012 season. Booker’s shooting stroke touched all areas of the court, as he shot 35 percent from downtown, connected at a 44.6 percent clip from the field and drained 85 percent (144-170) of his free throws.
Booker was a consistent scoring threat in one of the top junior college conferences in the nation, the Western Junior College Athletic Conference. He scored in double figures on 25 occasions and eclipsed the 20-point threshold seven times. Booker’s debut at New Mexico JC was one to remember, as he tallied a career-high 35 points in a victory over Seward County Community College on Nov. 1.
The 5-10 guard projects as a multiple-tool player, as he also averaged 3.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.9 steals per contest while in Hobbs. He notched a career-high eight steals to pair with 21 points in a 20-point home win over Western Texas College on Jan. 8 and dished out a career-high seven assists on four occasions, all of which came against WJCAC opponents.
With Booker’s leadership, the Thunderbirds posted a 19-13 overall record and advanced to the semifinals of the NJCAA Region 5 Basketball Tournament during the 2021-22 season.
Booker was named to the NJCAA Region 5 All-Region Team and received first team All-WJCAC recognition in March.
“He’s one of the best kids I’ve coached,” Adams said. “He was in the gym every day and honestly, he led by example, and that’s great when your best player is your best leader. That was the case with him. He did it in a different way. He was more the quiet type than a talking kid. I was really proud of him. We had a lot of injuries this year and he stepped up in really big moments. He kept improving. He was a joy to coach, and I wish I had another one of him coming back.”
Booker joined Odessa College midway through the 2020-21 season after New Mexico JC was forced to close its doors due to COVID-19 regulations imposed by the New Mexico Department of Health.
Despite New Mexico JC and Odessa College being WJCAC rivals, Adams referred Booker to Wranglers head man Kris Baumann, who did not hesitate to bring Booker on for the remainder of the season.
“Usually that’s a really tough situation for any team or any player and he handled it beautifully,” Baumann said. “He was almost like a sparkplug for our team. He came in, he led, he scored, he handled the ball. We were 20-1 at the time and he was a really good addition to our team for the second half of our season.”
Booker helped Odessa College enjoy one of the best seasons in program history during his year in west Texas. He averaged 10 points, 3.1 assists and 1.9 rebounds across 22 games played on a Wranglers squad that advanced to the NJCAA National Tournament. Booker earned his first set of All-WJCAC first team credentials ahead of Odessa’s postseason run.
“He’s a wonderful kid, he’s got a wonderful family, and I think it’s a win-win,” Baumann said. “I think it’s a win for him playing for coach Gillispie and it’s a win for Tarleton in getting him. I think coach Gillispie is getting a winner, a high-academic kid, and I know he’s a high character kid. I think he’ll fit in beautifully not just within the program but on the Tarleton State campus as well.”
Before venturing to the Lone Star State, Booker spent his freshman year at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee, where he played alongside his brother, Devin “Spark” Booker.
His collegiate basketball career certainly got off to an auspicious start with the NCAA Division II Magicians. Booker started in 21 of a possible 25 games at point guard during the 2019-20 season, averaging 9.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He was at his best down the stretch for LeMoyne-Owen, as he averaged 11.2 points per contest over the Magicians’ final 13 ballgames, scoring in double figures in seven of them.
Booker billed as a D1 caliber basketball player during his prep career at Bogan High School in the Windy City and as a member of the Mac Irvin Fire AAU basketball team during the summer of 2018.
He earned three varsity letters and served as a team captain twice at Bogan HS under legendary head coach Arthur “Goodie” Goodwin, who passed away in 2021. Booker was a star for Goodwin and the Bengals during his senior year in 2018-19. He steered the Bengals to a 30-4 overall record, Regional, Sectional and Super Sectional titles and a runner-up finish at the 3A IHSA Boys Basketball State Championships. Booker garnered second team All-City and third team All-State honors to close his high school career.
The competition internally with the Mac Irvin Fire and versus fellow Nike EYBL teams groomed him into a D1 prospect. Booker played alongside eight teammates who went on to play D1 basketball, including former Texas Tech standout Terrance Shannon and Kahlil Whitney, who played collegiately at Kentucky and currently is a member of the Rio Grande Vipers of the NBA G-League.
“The thing I loved about him is his passion for the game of basketball,” said Nick Irvin, head coach of Mac Irvin Elite. “He plays hard, he’s like having another coach on the floor. That’s what Tarleton is getting – another coach on the floor. The thing that made him stand out is how he commanded the team. They respected everything he said and at the end of the day, they did everything he told them to do. That’s what leaders do. They earn the respect of their peers.
“He’s built for playing for coach Gillispie,” Irvin continued. “His dad did a phenomenal job getting him prepared for it. Here at AAU, we coach hard. He doesn’t mind working hard, getting his feet dirty, diving for loose balls, throwing his nose in things, taking charges.”
In addition to the basketball court, Booker excels in the classroom. He made the Dean’s List while at New Mexico JC and was inducted into the National Honor Society at Bogan HS.
Booker intends to major in sport management while at Tarleton.
The color of Booker’s eyes led his father, Drake, to give him the nickname “Tiger” when he was an infant. It stuck, in part due to his prowess on the hardwood.
“As I grew older, I always had a tough mentality on the court, and people just assumed that’s the reason why it’s my name,” Booker said. “I never had a problem going along with that story even though that’s not how it really started. When I hear people say, ‘I see why your name is Tiger’ it lets me know I’m doing something right.”