Let's Go, Willie Buckets

By DJ Byrnes on March 29, 2012 at 2:20p
The day after the Duke Game, I was at Bob Evan's with my dad. Evan Turner walks right at us. Turns out, Buford was sitting behind us. Here's a transcript of their convo: BUFORD: "HDJKAHDDJKDA" ET: "JHSHASHSHAKA. DHDHAEJD?" BUFORD: "HAHAHAHA" ET: "Aight then," *bro hug, back to their tables*Willie Buckets, 3-piecing the competition. 

Back at the turn of the millennium, I was the sixth man for my middle school's basketball team. By the time my team was coronated as the best 7th grade team in Marion County, I was a less-talented version of Mark Titus. I can't I say I blame my coaches. I wasn't very good. I tried hard in games -- like all white players, I could've been described as "gritty" -- but I wanted no part of having the ball in my hands on the offense end of the floor. Also, Allen Iverson looked forward to practice more than I did. 

One time, in a rare moment of life-coaching I received from a Marion City Schools' employee, the 8th grade coach and program overseer -- a "Veterinarian War veteran" as I told my mom one day after school -- cornered me in a locker-room after practice and told me: "DJ, you need to start playing with confidence." At the time, I had no idea of what he meant by it. Hell, I was probably already dreaming about what I was going to accomplish during my nightly 8-hour EverQuest binge. That's probably why I don't remember anything after he said that. I'm pretty sure he walked off after I blinked blankly at him a couple of times.

This winter, it will have been a decade since I woke up one day and had an epiphany most middle class, white children have: "I'm never going pro in this. What's that? Why yes, I'll try your Natural Light." Now, after watching Ohio State knock Jim Boheim's bush-league ass out of the tournament, it's almost as if my basketball life has come full circle.

I've been a fan of William Buford, literally, since the first time I read his name. "McDonald's All-American", it said next to it. "Toledo, Ohio," his hometown read. I'm inclined to like anybody from the Glass City in the same way I will side-eye anybody who goes to the same church as Ben Roethlisberger in a satanistic town like Findlay. I have never wavered in my support of Willie Buckets, which is why it pained me to read this in the Washington Post:

Even before the first practice this season, Buford said he was still haunted by how poorly he played in the season-ending game last year.

He said he felt good about his career to that point.

“Yes, except my last game,” he said last October. “I got over it a little over the summer. It’s still with me, but I just don’t worry about it too much now. I just won’t ever let that happen again.”Even before the first practice this season, Buford said he was still haunted by how poorly he played in the season-ending game last year.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, or to get all philosophical like Wayne Gretzky, but the only way for Buford to ensure he doesn't ever fail his team again would be by sitting on the bench for the rest of his career. That's why I didn't mind sitting on pine: there was no way I could hurt my team from the bench, and I was okay with that. 

And please, Craft-fanboys, examine this picture when you say things like "NBA teams would be dumb not to draft Craft!"This was cold-blooded.

What I didn't recognize then is, failure is inevitable in the road to success. If William Buford is to fully harvest his basketball talents, he will fail at time en route to his ultimate destination. Failure is supposed to happen. To say he's "never going to let that happen again" is to set himself up for failure and gut-wrenching disappointment. The kind of gut-wrenching disappointment which can linger. 

Kobe Bryant has won everything from regular season games in Sacramento, pre-Olympic intra-squad scrimmages, Gold medals, Pacific division titles, and NBA play-off games. Take it from somebody who has watched his entire career -- Kobe Bryant has missed more in the clutch than he's made. And yet, with time winding down, I want the ball in the hands of the Black Mamba. (As would 74% of NBA players.) To taste any earned success by definition means to have tasted defeat. 

Kobe Bryant doesn't care about letting his team down, because he puts everything he has into games, and he's willing to live with the consequences. Haters can say what they will about my dude Willie Buckets, but one thing they can't say is he doesn't try hard.

The nine rebounds he hauled down against Syracuse can speak to that. And sure, DeShaun Thomas -- a gunner by his own admission -- has leapt into this tournament with both barrels bucking; but when it comes down to crunch-time, the ball is going to have to go into the hands of the Toledo Libby product. 

Aaron Craft can't create his own shot, and if he could, he couldn't hit it reliably. DeShaun Thomas can't set-up a crunch-time plays from the top of the key. Sullinger is great, but post players need perimeter players to get them the ball. No, it has to be William Buford, as it was against Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans on the regular season's last day. 

Buford drifted left, towards the top of the key from the right wing, and he splashed a shot he's probably be hitting since he was a sixth grader playing on blacktop. There was no thinking behind it, William Buford simply received the rock, shrugged off a deploring DeShaun Thomas on the other wing, and did what Willie Buckets was put on this earth to do. He's the only one on that team -- who Matta trusts enough to put on the floor during crunch-time, anyway -- that can hit that shot. If it comes down to the final seconds, it will have to be William Buford. 

Buford was 3 for 11 7/13 before he took that shot in East Lansing that won Michigan its first basketball title-share since 1853, but you wouldn't know it by how he took the shot itself. He knew it was going in before anybody else did. If only he took every shot with such confidence. His shooting will never be confused with Jon Diebler's, but Ohio State doesn't need William Buford to shoot like Jon Diebler to win the title. They will, however, need Buford playing with confidence, in all facets of the game, to beat the bluebloods which stand between Ohio State and the 2012 national title.

It's much easier to type into the internet than it is to perform under the bright-lights, but if William Buford can find his confidence, then I'll take Ohio State against any amateur basketball team in the country. I hear some chalk-covered birds from the central plains of America are up next. That's cool. I think that dude Willie Buckets has something for them. 


Comments Show All Comments

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

As I said in the last article - there is nothing I would want more on my birthday this Saturday than a Buckeye victory and a great game from Buford!  It would greatly thrill me if I didn't have to append profanity before and/or after screaming Buford!!!  Come on Willie - you can do this!!!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

pcon258's picture

i really hope buford turns it on in these last two (hopefully) games. him going off and getting 20 points per game could be the difference between playing in italy and starting for an nba team, and he seems like a great guy, so i really hope it works out for him

Go Buckeyes14's picture

I completely agree with everything written in this article. Will Buford is my favorite Buckeye hoopster of all time, and hopefully he'll get a chance at some poetic justice Saturday and Monday.


Maestro's picture

14, are you actually 14?  Just curious because Buford probably is many folks favorite Buck of all time.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  I hope he scores 60 in the next 2 games, but I fear it will be closer to 16.

vacuuming sucks

Go Buckeyes14's picture

Nah, Im 22. I've just got a soft spot for Willie Buckets. I've run into him on campus a time or two and he's just a genuinely nice guy. Hopefully he goes HAM sammich on some "Chalk covered birds" Saturday haha.

DJ Byrnes's picture

Agreed. Just a cool ass dude. He's up there with Scoonie Penn in my heart. 

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Maestro's picture

*isn't* many folks favorite Buck I meant to type

vacuuming sucks

Doc's picture

I've been a big Willie B fan his entire career in S&G.  I hope for his sake he can shrug off the demon that is haunting him and go out with the basket looking like it isthe size of Lake Erie.  Come on Will we all know you can do it.  Just trust yourself and do it.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Maestro's picture

HDJKAHDDJKDA is the bomb yo !!

vacuuming sucks

BrewstersMillions's picture

Everquest? DJ that game was the goods.

DJ Byrnes's picture

They have thousands of my and my parents' dollars. I played it from '99 all the way until I was banned in the fall of 2005 for training and griefing people in The Hole, lmao. Greatest game ever. Kids these days just don't know. Wouldn't trade any of my EverQuest days and permanent social awkwardness for the days when that game was popping. 


Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

BrewstersMillions's picture

I'm not ashamed to admit my love affair with online gaming. I've been through my fair share of them. Not many have been able to duplicate the sheer awesomeness that was EQ. Not even the second installment of said game. WoW can suck it. EvE online is pretty slick but other than that-no one has come close.

adurb44's picture

I joined just so I could add my comments about EQ. Namely, I lost several years of my life to that game. I don't want those pre-pubescent, fat and awkward years back. I guess hours of EQ on weekends saved me the embarassment of hanging out by myself at middle school dances. I actually joined up in a recent bout of unemployment - lot of fun but not what it was a decade ago.

sir rickithda3rd's picture

"great players arent great all the time...just when they have to be" hopefully willie comes alive!!!

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

RedStorm45's picture

Pretty sure he was 8-14 in that game meaning he was 7-13 before the shot.  Really the last time he was in a groove and feeling it as evidenced by his 25 of 78 shooting since.

DJ Byrnes's picture

My b. you're right. I was looking at http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/_/id/41744/william-buford and I mistook his performance against Sparty in the tournament for his one I was referencing in the article. Appreciate it.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

GABuckeye's picture

I respectfully disagree with one point - Buford isn't great at creating his own shot.  He's best coming off screens.  But then again, no one else can really create for themself either.  Craft can at times when he wants to, but that's not often.

DJ Byrnes's picture

Oh, I think Buford could create his own shot anytime, but I don't think Thad Matta would be a fan of that. I think Buford would be better used on a team that ran in transition more (possibly off the bench?). He'll get his chance in the NBA regardless, and I think he will be a fine pro. 

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

GABuckeye's picture

I absolutely agree with you - he will be a fine pro.  Maybe not all-star caliber, but a solid piece to some team's puzzle.  

awwwwwwop's picture

I love Willy Buckets. His post passing game was crucial against Syracuse.  He had like 3 straight great passes to Sully on the block in a row (while keeping his man from doubling down).  On the next series we put Zelle on the wing and he threw it right to the Cuse defender.  Just something to remember when people say he is worthless.

"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Buford figures to be guarded by Releford, which is a good matchup for WB. I'd like to see the Buckeyes try to get Buford 1-2 good looks early in the game to get him into a rhythm.

I don't see KU using much triangle and two, which to me seems just about the least effective defense one could ever devise against the Buckeyes excellent passing "forwards." Heck, Tank might score 30 pts and rack up 12 assists against the triangle and two. If KU does use it, though, then Buford would have a great opportunity to showcase his skillset, too.

Sarah's picture

To be fair to other gritty white players, the CBS announcers said it was Aaron Craft's girlfriend, and not Craft himself, who attends the same church as Ben Roethlisberger did. 

My brilliant strategy to unleash Good Buford is to get him uncontested shots

DJ Byrnes's picture

Aaron Craft has a girlfriend? Is this not more widely known because that'd probably spurn some sort of suicide cult at Ohio State?

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

That's some funny sh*t.  I said the same thing when they mentioned in during the game.

Idaho Helga's picture

Aaron w/ another woman? I AM depressed. But then again I'm near 50 and still married over 21 years...but, dang. (lol)

I think Buford gets a better matchup next game so should do better. This team has won games and held their ground or even gained ground in a game with {insert player name here not named Craft} in foul trouble, injured, having a bad game etc.

Clearly there was a lot of pressure before on Buford to be "the leader" due to senior/career scoring. But we're not all leaders just because we're good on a team. I have led kids who became Eagle scouts who have NO INTEREST in leading much of anything. They're just into what they do. Now that Craft (part Sully) have I think officially taken this leadership thing over a few weeks ago I am optimistic a bit of weight has been lifted from WB. We shall see.

BuckeyeCrew's picture

One point on which we disagree, concerns Craft's ability to create his own shot.  I am at a loss to explain your inability to see that he can "create" his own shot, anytime, with his dribble penetration.  How many times has he done that during his career?  He does it many times during a single game. 

That's not to say he has a good shot.. yet.  I think he will develop one during next season.

dubjayfootball90's picture

I love WB, and I have since I started following buckeye Basketbal a few years back.


I said something in late 2011 that I stand by: "WB will be the difference maker when it comes down to the late portion of the tournament. He is going to be the one who makes/misses the shot that determines the season"........ or something to that effect. either way, I love me some WB!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

frozen buckeye's picture

great article!  Way to dispense the wisdom, dj.  



JakeBuckeye's picture

My man Willie B!

I want to see this team win a national championship so bad, and nobody deserves it than the ultimate lady-keeper himself, Willie B.

Idaho Helga's picture

OK so it's not wise to look ahead but...

I see if we beat Kansas and KY wins then I am going into OSU vs Miami Jan 2003 mode. We won't seem like we belong on the ("court" this time) with them according to the media. I'm actually rooting for Louisville because I think it sucks they are in the final 4 and are still getting called "little brother".

er, not that I'd put money on 'em.

Anyway go BUCKS!

Brutus's picture

Thank you DJ. I simply don't understand all the hate portions of this fan base have for Buford. If he doesn't make another basket in his Ohio State career, he will still be one of the all time greats in my mind.

buckeyedude's picture

If I had a son, and I was black, he'd look like Willie Buckets.



RedStorm45's picture

Is this a reference to Obama and ...blanking on the kid's name down in Florida? Or am I reading way too much into that?

William's picture

I think you're reading way too much into it. I think his statement was meant to be taken literally?

faux_maestro's picture


Your mom told me she wants a Dicken Cidar.

BuckeyeJim's picture

Every Buckeye Fan wants WB to do well in the final four. It is really tough to watch the young man go through this kind of anguish. He most likely feels that he has not played his best as the senior on the team. I hope he has a blast in Nawlins. Go Bucks.

buckeye76BHop's picture

Great article..."If" Buf doesn't get hot, then I believe it's ALOT closer game than it should be.  It's about time he gets on a hot streak.  I know he thinks Buckeye fans don't like him or don't appreciate him...but it's not really about all that.  We just KNOW he's capable and it sucks to watch him come off a pick WIDE OPEN and clank it (or on some occasions lately air balling it).  He's better than that and his teammates need him now more than ever.  I hope you're right about the failures along the way to success...because I can't see OSU winning if he has a sub par night.  Go BUF and GO BUCKS!  It should be a much different story this time around against KU! 

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

RedStorm45's picture

I don't think there's as much "hate" from fans as there is frustration.  The offense looks a lot different this year than any of his previous 3 years with Sully and Thomas both being prolific scorers inside and even outside.  There's no set of E.T., Diebler, and Lighty to space the floor and draw better defenders.  WB is getting the #1 wing defender of every opponent every game.  We can certainly understand shots going in and out or at least taking good shots, it just seems as things snowball he throws up more bad shots and misses by a lot.  As has been mentioned, he's stepped up in other areas like rebounding and defense.  Would love to see him jump stop 6-8 feet from the hoop rather than forcing drives and getting a charge.

As much as people say we go as far as Buford takes us, I don't know any more.  Lenzelle has shown a knack for hitting clutch 3's and is a great offensive rebounding guard.  He can easily put up 15-18 because he draws the least amount of attention.  Craft can get 10-14 when he's aggressive and gets good looks.  We know Sully and Thomas can have 20 each if they stay out of foul trouble and are on their game.  You're talking 60+ points if no one has a severely off game so it's not like we NEED Buford to go score 18-20.  If his shot isn't there, don't take 14 of them.

bowe1632's picture

hey dj - what's with the 'white kid' this and 'white kid' that.  i'm white too and apparently, unlike you, i've been giving ppl buckets all my life - didn't like that.  and no, not all white kids can be defined as 'grity'...that's just stupid.

DJ Byrnes's picture

Who has received these buckets?

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

That question made me lol