Matt Edwards / Asst. multimedia editor
William Buford could have been a hero for Ohio State. He caught the ball on the left wing and fired a three pointer that he hoped would save OSU’s dream 2010-11 season.
But the shot came up short.
The buzzer sounded, and just like that, the Kentucky Wildcats upset the No. 1-seeded Buckeyes and eliminated them from the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Six months later, Buford still thinks about the Kentucky loss.
He shot 2-for-16 from the field and finished with just 9 points, two rebounds and one assist. The Buckeyes lost 62-60 and any one of his 14 off-target shots could have changed OSU’s fate.
“I shot 2-for-16,” Buford said during the OSU basketball team’s media day Friday. “I had the shot to win the game. It was just crazy. Like, I just stayed in the gym because I never want that to happen again.”
Buford said the painful images replayed in his mind everyday until about June or July, but, eventually, he had to move on.
“I mean it’s still in my head, but I don’t sweat about it too much anymore,” he said.
Along with the defeat, OSU lost a talented senior class that included the likes of Jon Diebler, David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale who were considered the leaders of the team.
“(Diebler, Lighty and Lauderdale) were the only three guys yelling, all hyper in practice, before practice and in the weight room,” sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas said. “It’s hard to replace them three guys because it was just so fun to be around them and they were great leaders.”
According to his teammates, Buford by nature is not a very vocal guy, but as the 2011-12 team’s only senior, he’s expected to play a major role in filling the void in leadership. It’s a role his teammates said he’s embraced.
“(Buford) is more of the laid back, quiet guy, but now he’s the only senior,” Thomas said. “We need that senior leadership. He changed. He started talking to us more, telling us what we got to do.”
Despite the lack of experience, the Buckeyes face high expectations this year with many publications predicting OSU to be among the top teams in the nation. But Buford said he doesn’t let the team or himself give it much thought. His experience won’t let him.
“We’ve been predicted to go to the Final Four the past two years,” Buford said, “and we ended up losing in the Sweet 16 so that really doesn’t mean too much.”
Buford has been working on changing his game, too. He said he focused all off-season on improving his strength so he could be more effective attacking the basket.
“(The strength) is going to help me finish at the rim,” Buford said. “I was so skinny I was just getting bumped off. I would just throw the ball up because I was so skinny. I’m still skinny, but now I can take contact and finish at the rim.”
Along with sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, Buford is one of the only two returning starters for the Buckeyes. Buford said he will be more in his comfort zone this year because he’s returning to his natural position. Last year, Buford started most games at point guard, but was asked to switch to shooting guard or small forward as different personnel entered the game.
This year, Buford said he won’t be asked to play much point guard and can concentrate on playing off the ball.
“I think it’s better because I’m back in my position,” Buford said. “I think I can show what I can do more.”