Hard work is really paying off for former University of Connecticut basketball star Josh Boone.

With his play in the Pro Summer League at RDV Sportsplex, Boone showed flashes of why the New Jersey Nets selected him with the No. 23 pick in the first round of the 2006 NBA draft.

A good example was his performance when the Nets played the Indiana Pacers last Wednesday. Boone scored 12 points in the first half, shooting 6 for 8 from the field. He also had six rebounds, including four offensive boards. Although his team lost 89-62, Boone finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and one huge block. The 17 points were his high for the week.

It was typical of his performances in Orlando. In the Nets' first three games of the summer league, Boone shot 61.5 percent from the floor (24 of 39) to rank third on the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game. His 9.0 rebounds per game led the team.

Boone said he likes the Nets' tempo -- run and gun type basketball -- which in the summer league was led by his former UConn teammate, Marcus Williams„©.

What stands out about Boone is his character and team spirit. He says that he could take easily dominate a game but he won't be a ball hog and try to win the game all by himself. The most important people in his life, he said, are God and his mother. Through the good times and bad times they were always there for him. Without them he wouldn't know where he'd be.

Boone said that he is ready for the National Basketball Association and that he's been improving his game to reach the NBA level. Before the Pro Summer League he was practicing with Coach Scott Skiles„© and the Chicago Bulls.

His last performance, however, showed he still has work to do. Consistency is often a theme for rookies, which means Boone will be looking to avoid the kind of days he suffered Friday. He failed to score in 30 minutes of action in a 92-77 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Branddon Gilliam is a junior at Oak Ridge High School. His Institute mentor is columnist Jemele Hill.