Nov. 19, 2002
By Jessica Summers
OU Media Relations
It was obvious at age six when he began throwing the shot that freshman forward Kevin Bookout stood out. Now, standing 6-8 and weighing 260 pounds, it is clear that Bookout is not the ordinary college freshman.
Bookout grew up in little Stroud, Okla., where he made a big impact. The youngest of three children, he benefited from the experiences of brothers Casey and Kyle.
"They always showed me the things they wished they could have done when they were younger," Bookout said. "They would show me an extra technique here and there or give me an extra lift to help me out."
Bookout's greatest memory of his younger years is loading up the family's brown van and driving across the country for track meets with his brothers and parents, Dennis and Pam.
"We drove to Spokane, Wash., one year and then to Orlando, Fla., the next year," Bookout said. "The five of us have gone coast to coast driving to various track meets."
Bookout says it is his parents and brothers who have been his biggest role models. Brotherly love must be something special because oldest brother Casey still holds the career home run record at OU and Kyle is currently on the OU track and field team. However, Kevin just might outdo both of them.
As a youngster, Bookout could never focus on just one sport. Along with throwing the shot, he played basketball and baseball. In high school he could never choose just one either.
"It didn't matter what sport it was," Bookout said. "I put the same amount of effort into every sport. The only thing that changed was what time of year it was."
Good thing for Stroud High School that Bookout didn't settle on a single sport. He lettered 13 times at Stroud. Bookout earned a letter all four years in baseball, basketball and track. He also managed to squeeze in one year of football. Every sport benefited from his participation.
Bookout set the Oklahoma high school state record for career home runs after going deep 65 times in his four years on the diamond. Bookout was also named a second-team Parade All-American in basketball and led the entire state in rebounding his senior year. When he wasn't busy with baseball and basketball, he managed to find time to set state records in the shot and discus. Bookout is an Olympic hopeful in the field events.
"I'm trying for the 2004 Olympics, but I think I have a better chance in 2008," Bookout said. "(OU throws) Coach (Ed) Wade has been working with me real hard and I think he can help me get there."
Despite all of his individual successes and accolades, it was Bookout's team achievements that marked his greatest sports memories.
"The most memorable moment of my sports career was winning state in basketball my senior year," Bookout said. "It was so great to achieve that goal with all of my friends that I grew up with playing ball."
While balancing all of his athletics, Bookout still found time to be the valedictorian of Stroud High School and attend Sunday school for 16 straight years without missing a class.
"Both my parents are teachers and really helped me out a lot in high school with time management," Bookout said. "They would help me plan my schedule and help me out with homework if I needed it. Most importantly, they told me to always build time for academics."
Bookout is a one-in-a-million talent and it's easy to see why he was highly recruited out of high school. Once again he pays tribute to those who always advised him.
"My brothers mean a lot to me," Bookout said. "They told me to follow my heart and said the Lord is going to bless me in many ways. They said the Lord will find a way and do it for me."
Bookout chose Oklahoma over Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina and Oklahoma State. With both brothers having attended OU, it certainly didn't hurt Bookout's decision-making process.
"They told me to take my visits and enjoy it because you'll only go through it one time," Bookout said. "They helped me through the whole thing and they didn't make me go to OU, but of course they liked the fact that I chose OU."
Now as a freshman, the Sooner fans are excited to have him. He hasn't decided on just one sport at OU either. Bookout will play basketball and throw the shot and discus for the track team in the spring.
High expectations have been placed upon Bookout's broad shoulders. He is a starting forward for a program that advanced to last year's Final Four. Many pundits expect the Sooners to be there again in 2003.
The transition from high school to college is obviously a tough one, even for an outstanding athlete. Bookout says the speed of the game, intensity on the court and the energy supplied by fans are all new to him. However, Bookout believes in his coach and his teammates.
"Coach Sampson has worked me hard and is doing a great job," Bookout said. "The older guys have really pushed me hard every day and bring out the best in me."
Bookout might seem larger than life, but many will find after speaking to him that he is quite human. The humble, gentle giant says three words that describe him are "tall," "religious" and "nice." The simple things in life are what make him happy.
"The hardest adjustment in college has been not being at home with my family," Bookout said. "I miss being the baby of the family and being around my parents every day. Another thing I really miss is my mom cooking me food and doing my laundry."
Bookout says he still remains close with his family even though he is away from home. He manages to speak with Casey at least four times a week and speaks to Kyle and his parents every day.
"My parents are my biggest fans," Bookout said, "They come to every home game and they love it."
Growing up, Bookout had dreams just like every other child. Now, thanks to his family, his determination and extraordinary talent, his dreams are becoming a reality.
"It's a dream playing for OU," Bookout said. "I've been wanting to run out of that tunnel ever since my dad and I used to come to games when I was little."
Now that Bookout is at the University of Oklahoma, the Sooners are again dreaming of another trip to the Final Four.