On Day 2 of our “Meet the Basketball Buckeyes,” it’s time to focus on the old man of the bunch, William Buford. In today’s game, notably amongst the top programs in the country, it’s becoming strange to see a senior on the court who is actually one of the best players. With the lure of fame and money of the NBA just one decision away, it’s rare to see someone actually choose to stay, put education first, and still thrive on the court, but that is exactly what William Buford has done for the 2011-2012 season (it also may not hurt matters that there might not be an NBA season to leave school for).
Buford has the chance to be a leader and mentor to a young Buckeyes team (if not for two transfer students – Evan Ravenel and Alex Rogers – he would be the ONLY upperclassman on the team), so who is this sharp-shooting old-timer?
William Buford, a 6’6” 220 lbs shooting guard, attended Libbey High School on the south side of Toledo, Ohio, and is already listed on the school’s page as a notable alumnus. Even being forced to wear the despicable colors of blue and gold as a Libbey Cowboy, he was able to have a very successful high school career and had “Scarlet and Gray” waiting for him at the end of the tunnel. As a four-year starter for Toledo Libbey, he led the Cowboys to a runner-up finish in the Division II Ohio High School State Tournament as a senior. He had a game-high 29 points, but the Cowboys lost on a last-second shot, 70-69.
Buford was named Mr. Ohio Basketball and Division II Co-Player of the Year in 2008. He also earned his third-consecutive Toledo City League Player of the Year honor in his senior season by averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds. Buford was selected as a McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American. He earned 2008 MaxPreps Third-Team All-America and Parade All-America honors. As a junior, Buford earned First Team All-Ohio honors and was a member of the All-Toledo Blade squad.
As a Buckeye, Buford got playing time as a freshman in 2009, and was even able to earn himself a starting position by late December of that year. “Big” Buford, #44 for the Bucks, has a silky-smooth shot and on a game-to-game basis is consistently at or just below a 50% field goal percentage. This makes his 2-16 performance against Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen game this past March even more difficult to swallow, but you can bet that he was his own toughest critic. He is one of the best pure shooters that OSU has seen in many years and often accumulates points so quietly and efficiently (as opposed to Sullinger’s massive dunks) that you read the box score and do a double-take at his 16-20 point outing.
His work ethic is evident in his stats alone, as you can see that he has increased his 3-point shooting percentage in each of his three seasons (36%, 38%, 44%). This is very welcomed news, as OSU will have to collectively replace the Big Ten’s all-time 3-point leader in Jon Diebler. His shooting accuracy and at the free-throw line will hopefully be contagious for the rest of the team, as his 84% from the stripe was easily the best on the team last year and this was an often-mentioned weakness for the club.
On top of his deadly shooting, Buford is a well-rounded player, grabbing roughly 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal per game. On top of that, minus a mildly vulgar display directed at the Penn State student section two years ago, he is a disciplined player that is rarely in foul trouble (2.2 fouls per game). This always bodes well for a Thad Matta coached team, in which you may not learn the name of your 7th man until January or February because his rotation is so tight. I’d like to see him take a step up in defense this season, in an effort to help replace David Lighty, and take his game to a new level in that regard.
In all, Buford may not be a consistent ESPN top play nominee or outspoken jokester like a couple of his pop star teammates, but look for him to be the one to put the dagger into teams early and often with his ability to bury the mid-range and deep jumpers. When you watch the scene from Hoosiers in which Jimmy Chitwood makes a ridiculous number of shots in a row, you can’t help but think of Buford in the Wisconsin “Deal With It” game last year in which he was perfect from the stripe, perfect from the arc, and only missed two shots on the entire day. We’re glad to have this Buckeye back for his senior year and wish him the best on and off the court.