NYU's Boone Shines on NIT Tour
It didn't matter which school he came from -- Jason Boone fit right in.
Boone, who will be a junior in the fall semester at New York University, is believed to be the first Division III men's basketball player on a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) All-Star roster since the team's inception in 1980. The NIT All-Star Team tours the world during the summer to play top-flight international competition.
"Even though NYU is Division III, both my coach and my athletic director felt that I could play with these guys, so they asked me to play on the team," said Boone. "It was an opportunity for me to get out there and play with some Division I players and stay in shape over the summer, so I had to jump on that opportunity."
Boone and nine Division I players embarked on a trip to Europe on June 24, where they visited London and Limerick, Ireland, and played teams such as the English National Team, the Irish National Team and the Belgium National Team. Some of Boone's teammates were last season's Division I scoring champion Keydren Clark of Saint Peter's College, Manhattan's Jason Wingate, Providence's Donnie McGrath and Marquette's Steve Novak.
For Boone, who was recruited by several Division I Mid-Major schools from the Patriot League and the MAAC, it was a chance to prove himself.
"They (Division I schools) wanted me to go to prep school for a year or redshirt, because I was only 17 when I graduated," said Boone. "I knew that academically I was ready for college, and I just wanted to go somewhere that I could play and fit into the system. I loved the coaching staff at NYU and it was just a great fit."
Boone, a native of Sugar Loaf, N.Y., averaged 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for NYU last season, while leading the Violets with 43 blocked shots and a .612 shooting percentage. His career field goal percentage of .613 during his first two seasons is the highest in NYU history.
"Knowing that I could have played in Division I when I matured a little bit, this year especially, I think it was good that I got out there and played with them," said Boone. "I felt like I held my own with them and that you wouldn't have been able to tell that ˜he's a Division III guy.' I felt like I was right there with them every step of the way, and it felt good."
The NIT All-Star Team posted a 7-0 record during its tour, and Boone learned his counterparts from across the Atlantic Ocean play a different style of basketball.
"They had good fundamentals " they boxed out, they tried to take charges " but they just weren't as physical as the guys that were on our team," said Boone. "We had only been playing together for four days before we traveled over there, so we didn't have our offense set up, but we ran them up and down the court. Most of the teams over there were in better shape than we were, but we tried to set the tempo early in most of the games and got out to a big lead in the beginning and kept it as we played."
Boone and his teammates were also treated to some European culture and tourist attractions while on their trip.
"I had never been to Europe," said Boone. "It was little bit of a culture shock " they drove on the other side of the road " but it was a lot of fun. They took us out to see a lot of the tourist attractions in London like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Parliament and we went on a boat tour.
"When we got to Ireland we saw the Cliffs of Moher, went to the Waterford Crystal Factory, and a lot of other fun things," said Boone. "It was something I never thought I would have the chance to do because of basketball. It was a great trip. I met a great bunch of guys that I'm going continue to talk to."
Boone is also excited to return for his junior season with the Violets, and hopes they will improve on last season's 16-10 record, and 6-8 finish in the University Athletic Association standings.
"We only have one senior on the team, so it's going to be up to the junior class, which is my class, to lead the way," said Boone. "I feel that this kind of experience (the NIT All-Star Team) has helped me become more of a leader -- more of a vocal leader. I know what kind of team it takes to get to the NCAA Division III National Championship, and that's what I'm going to be pushing my team to do this year."