Rise and Shine
William Buford has stepped up in the absence of David Lighty
by Kyle Rowland, Ohio State Athletics Communications
William Buford’s season was moving along like the ones most freshmen experience: modest minutes and a spot as a role player. That all changed when junior guard and captain David Lighty went down with a broken bone in his left foot against Jacksonville Dec. 17. Buford was one of the underclassmen who were called upon to rise to the occasion and help pick up the slack. He has responded like a veteran and even been a shining star at times.
“It was a big adjustment coming in,” Buford said. “I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I am starting to adjust to it and get more comfortable with my game.”
Buford is no stranger to the bright lights and the big stage, which helps explain why the 6-5 freshman guard has adjusted well to the Big Ten and college game. The ballyhooed product out of Toledo’s Libbey High, who began playing the game at age 3 at a park across the street from his home, averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds as a high school senior, garnering numerous national accolades including being named to the prestigious McDonald’s All-America team.
Since Lighty’s injury, Buford has started 13 games and averaged more than 15 points a game. He has atoned for Lighty’s missed minutes by playing 35 or more in six of his last seven. In 21 games for the season, he has averaged 11.9 points, second-most on the team, and 3.4 rebounds. He also has 19 steals.
He was named Big Ten Player of the Week Jan. 19 after he averaged 17.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in wins over Indiana and Michigan. He tied a career high in points, with 19, against the Hoosiers.
Being thrown into the middle of a buzzsaw like the Big Ten has not gone unnoticed, though. The conference is known around the country as more hard-nosed and brute than a finesse league. Each night is a physical battle and an 18-game schedule begins to take a toll on the body and mind.
“The physicality and speed of the game are way different from high school,” Buford said. “Those two things are a big part of college basketball, so you have to be mentally prepared before every game to come out and play.”
Prior experiences, such as playing in AAU tournaments and enrolling for summer quarter to get acclimated to college life, have not only helped Buford out but also the team. In terms of competition and life away from home, the AAU circuit has been an asset to him.
“I played in AAU games throughout high school and was gone almost every weekend for them,” Buford said. “Those games were against some of the best guys in the country, so it really hasn’t been all that different.”
A major boost to the Buckeyes, and something that is seen more and more around the country, is players staying around campus during the summer and freshmen enrolling early. So it is no coincidence as to why this team appears to have cohesiveness to it. After all, they have been playing with each other for six months.
“I think coming in early is very beneficial,” Buford said. “Once the season starts, you are already clicking. It didn’t take too long for us because we are always hanging out, talking about basketball. We are like brothers.”
An added story line to Buford’s year is the fact that he hails from Toledo, the same city that produced Buckeye legend Jim Jackson, a former All-American and the 1992 national player of the year whose No. 22 hangs from the Value City Arena rafters. That thought is not lost on Buford.
“They always talk about how we are both great players from Toledo who went on to Ohio State,” Buford said. “I want to follow in his footsteps and hopefully I can get as far as he did.”
If Buford lives by his motto of “just going out and playing as hard as you can,” one would think there are possibilities for him to do just that.