Buckley decision to stay with UT pays offWritten by Nate Pentecost | | email@example.com
Dominique Buckley jogged up the court slowly, lagging behind the pack as the Bowling Green basketball team aligned itself defensively.
The University of Toledo guard pulled up behind the three point line, received a pass from Matt Smith, launched the ball from NBA range and sank a basket that pushed the Rockets lead to double digits and ignited a Savage Arena crowd of over 6,000 near the midway point of the second half.
“It felt good when it left my hand,” Buckley said with a grin. “I was excited to get it. I was hoping I wasn’t too excited.”
Buckley, UT’s lone senior, scored 20 points in the midnight blue and gold’s 75-62 victory of the Falcons Jan. 26, one less than his career-high. But he easily could have bypassed his final appearance in the Battle for I-75 and few would have held it against him.
In April the NCAA suspended the Rockets eligibility for postseason season play in the 2012-13 season as a result of a low Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, primarily under former coaches Gene Cross and Stan Joplin.
Due to the postseason ban, the NCAA afforded Buckley and former UT swingman Curtis Dennis the opportunity to transfer to another institution without sitting out a season as the intercollegiate athletics governing body normally requires.
Dennis, a Bronx, N.Y., native, transferred to Iona College in New York to be closer to family during his senior year. Buckley, who transferred from Iowa State in 2010 after two seasons of seeing minimal playing time with the Cyclones, said his decision to remain at Toledo was a no-brainer.
“[The postseason ban] was really tough, but it wasn’t going to change my decision – I never once thought about transferring,” Buckley said. “I like it here, I feel like it’s home because they’ve been good to me. The players are like brothers to me. So it just didn’t feel right to leave and to have to pick up and go again, especially when I’ve found a home here in Toledo.”
Last season the Rockets registered the second-largest turnaround in the country, making postseason ineligibility an even more devastating blow. Though Buckley no longer has an opportunity to reach postseason play at the collegiate level, he has found purpose in his leadership role and remains motivated by team objectives set at the beginning of the season.
“Our goal this season was for us to be better than we were last year,” Buckley said. “We want to compete for a MAC West Championship this year so we had to come together as a team early and I think that was one of my jobs, to help lead the team.
“It was hard in the early stages because we were still getting to know the freshmen and everything, but as time goes on we got better and better. I think we’re working hard to achieve our goal.”
After beginning conference play with back-to-back wins, UT stumbled through a three-game losing streak, suffering defeats at the hands of some of the league’s top squads in Western Michigan, Ohio and Akron.
Putting forth arguably the best performance of his collegiate career against BG, Buckley helped break a four-way tie for second place in the MAC West, keeping UT within a game of the division-leading Broncos with the most grueling portion of the Rockets conference slate now in the rearview.
Although postseason play is out of the question and division title hopes are up in the air, Buckley has already found a lasting memory to take away from his senior season.
“You’re always going to remember your rival games regardless of what happens, so you want to be on the good end of that stick,” Buckley said. “Winning that game [against Bowling Green] is something I’ll always remember.”