Buford leads OSU’s Buckeyes to the NCAA tourneyWritten by Scott Calhoun | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Here’s a good trivia question: what city has produced the most consensus All-Americans at Ohio State?
The answer is Toledo.”
—Dennis Hopson, former Bowsher star and Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer
Coming off a convincing Big Ten tournament championship and winners of 13 of its last 14 games, fifth-ranked Ohio State (27-7) enters the 2010 NCAA Championships as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest bracket opposite top-ranked and top overall seed Kansas.
Two years removed from a Libbey High School basketball career that included becoming Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in 2008 and a McDonald’s All-American, Ohio State sophomore William Buford is a main ingredient in the Buckeyes’ latest quest for the program’s first national title since 1960.
The team’s starting small forward landed Big Ten third team honors last week after completing the regular season with the Buckeyes’ second best scoring average at 14.3 points, and averaging 14.9 points per game during the Big Ten season.
“I’m honored to be all-Big Ten,” Buford said, just prior to the conference tournament. “I’m coming on pretty strong and feel like I can help my teammates.”
Buford went on to average 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and three assists in Indianapolis during the Big Ten tournament. He connected on 20 of 41 field goal attempts from the floor, including shooting 6-of-12 in three point shot opportunities, in combined wins over Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota.
Buford’s defense was instrumental in the Buckeye’s run to the title. It’s something the Glass City native said is key to the team’s success.
“I think we feed off of our defense a lot. When we play hard on defense, our offense always follows through for us,” said Buford, following the Buckeyes’ 90-61 dismantling of the Golden Gophers in the conference title game. Buford had three steals, four assists, and blocked a shot while scoring 13 points in the contest.
Many considered this a breakout season for Buford, but while thrilled with the year OSU is having, he is not satisfied yet with his contributions on the court yet.
“(Winning the Big Ten and seeding high in the NCAA tourney) is very satisfying. It’s really exciting for us. We’ve been working hard for this and looking forward to it, but I feel like I can do better.”
In time, Buford would like to duplicate or better current junior teammate Evan Turner’s success, the Big Ten Player of the Year who is considered the favorite among five finalists for the Naismith Award, which is given to the nation’s top collegiate basketball player.
Buford’s efforts to build a legacy with the Buckeyes takes on added significance, as the Glass City bears an unmatched footprint in Buckeye hoops history.
Jim Jackson (Macomber ’89), Dennis Hopson (Bowsher ‘83) and Kelvin Ransey (Macomber ’76) are legendary Buckeyes men’s hoopsters who hail from Toledo.
All three are former collegiate All-Americans, with Jackson and Hopson claiming spots as first team members. Ransey was named to second team in 1979.
When Evan Turner, a Chicago native, became just the fifth Buckeye to win the Big Ten Player Player of the Year last week, he joined an elite fraternity. Hopson earned that honor in 1987, and he remains Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer with 3,633 points to this day. Jackson won the award twice (1991, 1992). Jackson also landed UPI national Player of the Year in 1992. While Ransey, who starred from 1976-79, never grabbed a conference POY award, he was a three-time all-conference first team honoree.
“It is unique to have so many guys from one area accomplish a lot of great things at Ohio State,” Jackson said.
All three were among the top four first-round picks in their respective NBA drafts and enjoyed substantial professional careers.
These days Jackson is an Emmy award-winning color analyst for the Big Ten Network. Hopson is close to home fresh off his first season as an assistant coach at Bowling Green, and Ransey resides in Tupelo, MS, as a pastor at a local church in nearby Oxford.
“Jim and I talked about (the Toledo legacy) before the UT vs. Ohio State football game last fall,” said Hopson, who attended high school at Bowsher with Buford’s father, William Sr. “A lot of your success is about the people you know. Your success will confirm that.”
Buford has his work cut out if he is to follow suit, but following March Madness some heavy brush could be cleared away.
Turner ‘s possible departure to the June 2010 NBA draft would leave Buford as the Buckeyes’ top returning offensive threat next year, but that is if he returns.
“There’s talk that William may be ready to move on to the next level, but I think it will really help him to return to continue developing his game and have a chance to step into a true leadership role,” said Jackson, who went pro after his junior year season at Ohio State.
“I agree with Jim that William probably needs one more year,” Ransey said. “In terms of (the Toledo legacy) he has to stay to make that happen, but if he does he’s definitely capable of joining that fraternity of me, Jimmy, and Dennis.”
If Buford were to follow his predecessors’ advice, the benefits of further personal basketball enrichment could be the gateway to turning this legendary local trio into a quartet.
He has their full confidence in his potential to blaze his own path.
“William is a great player and will play at the next level,” said Hopson. “He’s shown that he’s willing to work hard at being successful.”
Ransey agreed with Hopson.
“I love William’s game,” Ransey said. “Since he’s been there I’ve seen dramatic improvement and I think he’s the key to their success this season. When he plays great he makes the difference and is the perfect counterpart to Evan Turner.”
“He’s made his biggest strides defensively, which has helped make him a complete player,” Jackson said. “It’s really helped OSU get to where it is right now. Playing with Turner, who is such a great passer, has benefited William in a lot of ways too.”
Known as a team player, the calmly composed Buford is focused solely on the scarlet and gray’s current pursuit. The Buckeyes enter March Madness as a top contender for the national title.
“Of course I think about (being the next POY) all the time, but I’m being patient and just trying to help my team win,” Buford said.
Jackson said the Buckeyes tournament efforts could go a long way in building Buford’s own legacy. If Ohio State returns to Indianapolis for the Final Four next month, and celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first and only national crown, by winning its second, Buford would automatically achieve what his three hometown elders never did.
“Win that national title,” Ransey said, with a laugh. “I’ll be rooting for them and love this (Buckeyes) team. Thad Matta is a great coach and I think they have a good shot.”
Buford hopes so, too.
“Hopefully it will all pay off,” he said.