Molly Gray / Managing editor for design. Photos
You might know that William Buford is the starting guard for the No. 1-ranked Ohio State basketball team, but you might not know that he is a quiet student, a below average ping-pong player, loves the kids’ meal at Raising Canes and his car could use a trip to the shop.
Buford arrived at Central Classroom Building at 10:32 a.m. Monday. He walked briskly up the stairs on the right to get to his 10:30 a.m. class, Swahili 102.
Even though he arrived a few minutes after the bell, students were still settling in and Buford found his seat in the middle of the room without causing a disruption. He is not the only recognizable athlete in the class, as football players Jaamal Berry, Mike Adams and Michael Brewster were also in attendance.
Buford talked with Berry while the professor distributed a graded quiz.
“Most of the athletes, we stay together and try to be close,” Buford said.
As the last quiz was handed out and class lecture began, the talking stopped. Buford took notes and did not talk again until the opportunity to work in groups arose.
“I’m pretty shy in class. I really don’t say too much,” Buford said. “I try to stay out of the way and get my work done.”
As class came to a close, Buford checked with a classmate to make sure he was clear on the assignment for the next class.
“Seventy-two sentences?” he said, shocked at the amount of work.
With only one class on Mondays and Wednesdays, Buford had finished his academic load for the day. His obligations, however, were far from over.
He made the short walk from Central Classrooms to the Tuttle Parking Garage and climbed into his silver 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix, which has been on campus since his sophomore year. The “check engine” light was on as he left the parking garage.
Buford drove to Parks Hall and picked up his teammate, senior guard David Lighty. Buford moved to the passenger seat, which was already as far back as the car would allow, and let Lighty drive while he made a call about getting the car serviced.
The two starters pulled into the Schottenstein Center parking lot and made their way to the player’s entrance. Buford slowed down and waited for Rob, his barber, who cuts his and Lighty’s hair in the locker room.
Rob has been coming to the arena to cut Buford’s hair since the player’s freshman year. With a prime-time game against Purdue to be aired on ESPN the following evening, the timing couldn’t have been better.
“I just really needed a haircut since last week, but it worked out that way,” Buford said, smiling.
A chair was set up in the bathroom portion of the locker room and Rob opened his bag and went to work. Buford played music on his phone, the EVO, while barber and client rapped along.
Buford wandered to the upper bowl of the arena after the 35-minute haircut, in search of an ATM so he could pay Rob.
After compensating the barber, he dropped some things off in his locker, which stands between Lighty’s and freshman guard Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s. Buford then retreated to the team’s ping-pong table to pass the time.
“Everybody plays,” he said. “We compete a lot at ping-pong.”
After 30 more minutes, Lighty’s hair was cut and the two tried to decide where to get food. They agreed on Raising Cane’s and Buford left to pick up the order while Lighty studied.
Buford walked into the location on Ackerman Road and ordered a kids’ meal for himself and one for Lighty.
“We always get the kids’ meal,” Buford said. “We got practice so we aren’t trying to get too full.”
Numerous patrons and employees stared at the basketball player as he placed his order and waited for it to be filled.
“I don’t pay attention,” he said of the added attention. “I try not to make eye contact with people.”
After returning to the locker room, Buford ate his lunch while watching SportsCenter.
At 1:40 p.m., he left the locker room and headed to the training room for treatment on an ankle injury he suffered against Illinois on Jan. 22. With Tuesday’s game looming, Buford needed the ankle treatment in order to play.
Under the guidance of team athletic trainer Vince O’Brien, Buford iced his ankle for three different increments of five minutes with stretching exercises in between. After an hour in the training room, Buford returned to the locker room for more ping-pong before the team film session.
Strength and conditioning coach Dave Richardson challenged Buford to a game.
“I’m about to Forrest Gump his ass,” Buford said.
Richardson swapped out the traditional paddle for a small block of wood with an Ohio State emblem on it.
“If I beat you with this, you’re not allowed to play anymore,” Richardson said, laughing.
Richardson won, 21-8, and Buford retired to the couch to watch his teammates play.
“Coach Rich got a ping-pong table at his house so he’s pretty good,” Buford said. “I suck. I just play it to have fun.”
During the following game, Smith, a spectator at the time, was called for “hands.” Every player in the room slapped Smith hard on the back of the hand. Buford slapped twice after Smith flinched the first time.
You get called for hands “if you say something dumb,” Boston College transfer Evan Ravenel said. “Something real dumb.”
At 3 p.m., the games stopped as the team convened to watch film on the Purdue offense. Buford’s eyes were fixed on the screen for the entire 25 minutes while he rotated his ankle, trying to keep it loose. No one spoke as coach Thad Matta and his assistants broke down the footage.
As the team left for the court, Buford returned to the training room to have his ankle taped a final time before entering the gym.
Buford did not participate in the practice because of his injury and instead did individual shooting and dribbling drills.
“It was kind of frustrating because I’m not used to it,” he said. “What is that, my second time (missing practice) in three years? It didn’t feel normal.”
Buford stuck his head into the first-team huddles during full-court drills.
“I was just seeing what they were running,” he said. “I didn’t want to be left out.”
After practice concluded, the team stayed on the floor, shooting around and playing games. Buford placed second to assistant coach Brandon Miller in one game involving 3-point shooting.
“I had to let him win,” Buford said, laughing.
Buford, freshman guard Jordan Sibert and senior guard Eddie Days left the court at 5:20 p.m., the last three players to leave. Buford returned to the training room for treatment.
After five minutes with his ankle in the hot tub to loosen the muscles, athletic trainer Chalisa Fonza began to administer a Sound Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (SASTM) massage, a technique involving small instruments that Fonza has been working with for three years.
“I’m going real easy because he has to play tomorrow,” Fonza said.
The grimace on Buford’s face would suggest the opposite. Buford jokingly bit a towel and asked freshman guard Aaron Craft to talk to him while he got the massage.
“You feel that crunchy-crunch?” Fonza said while rubbing a small purple instrument on the ligaments on the front of his ankle. “That’s the problem.”
For Buford, the entire technique was a problem.
“That was my first time ever getting it. I don’t want to get that thing no more; that thing hurts,” he said. “She said she has to give it to me again on Wednesday, so it is what it is.”
After the massage and a round in the ice tub, Buford changed into his street cloths, got taped up again and left the arena.
At 6:35 p.m. Buford stepped into his car, ready to head home to the apartment he lives in alone at Olentangy Commons. He planned on studying, icing his ankle and resting in preparation for the next night’s game.
Buford started in Tuesday’s game against Purdue. The junior logged 23 minutes and a team-high 19 points in the team’s 87-64 victory.