It’s not everyday that budding entrepreneurs have a chance to pitch business ideas and play a round of “Bear, Ninja, Cowboy” with a professional basketball player.

So a group of Clemson University students jumped at the opportunity Tuesday when Utah Jazz power forward Trevor Booker paid a visit to a meeting of The DEN, also known as The Design and Entrepreneurship Network.

Trevor Booker has a laugh with students and faculty members at The DEN.

Trevor Booker has a laugh with students and faculty members at The DEN.

So many students and faculty members attended that the meeting had to be moved from its regular location in a conference room at the R.M. Cooper Library to an auditorium-style classroom at the Rhodes Research Center Annex.

When they settled in, Booker told the students, “I’m really looking forward to hearing ideas and helping out in anyway I can.”

Students had three minutes to pitch their ideas, and then an alarm would sound. When the alarm sounded the room erupted in celebration as the pitchers were greeted with the audience’s applause. This rapid pace and heightened the energy in the room kept presenters honest to their allotted three minutes of presentation time. Whether or not the presentation had come to a conclusion at the end of the three minutes, the presentation hopefully piqued the audience’s interest to be later explored during the exposition that followed.

The crowd heard pitches about companies that would rent umbrellas on college campuses, make exercise equipment small enough fit in a suitcase and many others. Not only did audience members hear pitches, but they also had the opportunity to engage in conversation with these companies during the post-presentation exposition that featured competitions, prizes, and food.

The exposition was not only an opportunity for attendees to network, but also served as The DEN Boardroom’s grand opening to the public in Rhodes 214. It is in this room that DEN students come to brainstorm and develop their ideas.

However, during the exposition the room served as a networking mecca. At the beginning of the night, each audience member received a business card at random. This business card belonged to someone else in the room, and by the end of the night, audience members were tasked to make a connection with the person on their business card.

photo 2This networking was especially beneficial, as several of The DEN’s mentors were in the audience with Booker, including Tom Swette and John Warner. Audience members also included other professional who are looking forward to becoming DEN mentors in the fall semester.

Faculty Director of The DEN, Dr. John DesJardins said, “The idea behind the program is to connect student inventors and entrepreneurs with industry mentors ranging from angel investors to patent attorneys. They gather in weekly meetings across campus, where students pitch their ideas so that the group can brainstorm ways to make them better and perhaps even take them to market.”

More than $1 million has been invested in companies through The DEN.

Booker was fresh off a big game when he arrived at Clemson, his alma mater. He scored a career-high 36 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 11.

Booker was selected to the All-ACC team in his senior year at Clemson. He was the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft.

The DEN meeting he attended was the last of the spring 2015 semester.

The program revs up again in the fall semester. The first meeting will be Aug. 25  at 5:30 p.m. in the Edgar A. Brown Room of Clemson’s R.M. Cooper Library.