Interview with Buckman's AAU coach

<I>Inside Carolina</I>'s David Thompson spoke at length with Tar Heel target Brad Buckman's AAU coach, Aubrey McCreary of Pump N Run. McCreary oversaw Buckman's emergence this summer into one of the nation's top prospects. This is the fifth and final feature of our week-long Buckman coverage.

Inside Carolina: Any outstanding games or moments in games last year that stick out in your mind?

Coach McCreary: Probably the D.C. Assault game down in Las Vegas. That was probably one of his better outings throughout the whole summer.

IC: What stood out about that game?

Coach: Just his overall play. I think he had 22 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks—a great solid performance and a great defensive performance as well. That was pretty typical of his whole play throughout the summer. That game, his intensity level and everything else, he was the man.

IC: Do you remember who he was matched up against?

Coach: No I don't. I mean, D.C. Assault has some tremendous athletes and I'm not really good at names of other people, so…

IC: Tell us about Brad's Five Star performance. Were you at Brad's Five Star camp?

Coach: Not at Five Star, but he went back after being at ABCD camp and then he came out to West Coast All Star camp. He was pretty tired and banged up and I was sort of concerned about him going back to Five Star. He'd probably been on the road, traveling for 8-9 days already and he went back to Five Star and just had a great camp. I believe he got MVP back there.

IC: He did. He got MOP of the camp and MVP of the Five Star playoffs.

Coach: That was probably one of his, I would say one of proudest things he would say he did all summer. And he was really excited about that.

IC: In your opinion, why has Brad skyrocketed in the national rankings as a player?

Coach: It was his overall play and people starting to recognize his ability. He's very well coached [at Westlake]. His high school coach is a great coach so he's put in a lot of time, since the season's been over to prepare for all the things he had to do in the summer with his high school coach. And he's a great kid. He's got a great work ethic. He's gained some weight and he's gotten stronger. I think that's been a big factor. So I guess his work ethic and everything else, it all seemed to come together.

IC: He started for you this summer?

Coach: Oh yeah.

IC: What position did he play for Pump N Run this summer?

Coach: He played Center and Power Forward.

IC: Primarily, what did you look to him for?

Coach: We tried to get him the ball, as many touches as possible down in the low post, but also he was very capable of stepping out to the 3-point line and knocking down shots as well.

IC: So primarily he played power forward?

Coach: Yeah, power forward. We had another 6-11 kid and we had other athletic 6-8 kids, too.

IC: What is his natural position?

Coach: I would say power forward type-of-guy, like a 4 guy. I mean, he can play center and also in situations he can go out on the perimeter so I would say probably the power forward.

IC: Is that the position you think he'll play in college-power forward?

Coach: Yes, that's what I would think. To be 6-8, 6-9, but he plays so much bigger than he is.

IC: What is Brad's greatest strength as a basketball player?

Coach: Greatest strength? He's so good at so many things! I tell you what, he's real patient in the post. He doesn't rush anything. He lets the game come to him. He's a great finisher inside.

IC: As a coach, what would you like to see Brad improve on? What is the best way for Brad to mature as a player?

Coach: I think he should continue to do all the things he's been doing—keep doing what his high school coach, Coach McNeely tells him to do. He can probably keep improving his ball-handling skills. Facing the basket, off-the-dribble moves and that type of thing—keep on improving on those kinds of things. Just keep getting his inside game stronger.

IC: Did you see him make improvements over the summer?

Coach: No, he played so steady throughout the whole summer. I mean, he had a great summer. That game against D.C. Assault was pretty typical of the way he played almost every game.

IC: On offense, in the power forward spot you tried to get him as many touches as possible offensively. How did you use Brad defensively?

Coach: We played man-to-man. He defended whoever he had to defend and he did a good job.

IC: Did you put him on a post player or did you put him on a forward usually?

Coach: We were pretty big so our match-ups a lot of times, we were able to mis-match. He had to guard a lot of guys that were probably quicker than him. A lot of teams we played didn't have the size we had, so…

IC: What is Brad's potential on the college level?

Coach: He's going to be an outstanding college player.

IC: I understand you had much more of a team-oriented coaching style compared to normal summer ball. On the scale of run and jump to half-court, is Brad more suited to one than the other? Where in that scale does he fit better?

Coach: I think that he can fit into really any style because he ran the floor so well, so he can fit into a team that likes up and down. He's got great hands, he runs the floor really well, a great finisher in traffic. I tell you, he's really great in a half-court situation. I mean, that's the type of player he is. I think he can fit into any style of play wherever he goes.

IC: Besides the skills, what are the intangibles Brad brings to a basketball team?

Coach: Number one, he's a great kid. I mean that sincerely. He's a better kid than he is a basketball player. He's a great kid to be around. Kids flock to him. He's real magnetic in terms of his personality. He likes to have fun but Brad does a great job of it. He separates having fun and when it comes time to go to work out on the floor, he's very, very focused. I think that's a tremendous skill to have—to be able to keep things in perspective. That's what he's done about the summer, which I think is really neat. He's really kept it in perspective, in terms of what's going on around him and the decisions him and his family are going to have to make. He's just an outstanding young man.

IC: A lot of our readers are just getting to know Brad and his game. If a person were watching Brad for the first time, what would be the most noticeable thing about his game?

Coach: That's a tough question. I think after you watch him a while, you just really appreciate his game. His game is so solid. He's not the type of guy that just is going to flash out at you. What will flash out at you is the way he finishes inside right away. When you look at him, you think, "oh, he's not going to be able to finish," and all of a sudden he goes up and finishes strong over somebody with a man in his face. He has a great ability to do that and doesn't look like he can do that. He's real deceptive that way. He does a great job of doing all the intangibles that make a great basketball player.

IC: Can he shoot the three?

Coach: Yes.

IC: What is his shooting range like?

Coach: I think he's a solid 3-point shooter. I think his strength is his inside game but he's very capable of stepping out and knocking down the three.

IC: How are Brad's defensive skills?

Coach: He's real long. He's a lot longer than you think he is so he gets to a lot of shots. The one thing he probably needs to improve upon is his foot speed—get a little bit quicker defending laterally which is going to come with working out and getting stronger and just doing quickness drills. He's a lot longer than he looks so he gets to a lot of basketballs.

And he's a great rebounder. He's a great offensive rebounder. He probably could improve defensive rebounding but he's a great offensive rebounder.

IC: On the scale of physical player versus finesse player, where does Brad fit?

Coach: Physical. He has a lot of finesse in the post but at the same time he's very physical inside.

IC: How was it to coach Brad?

Coach: It was great. In our group of kids, we had all great kids. It was really a great situation for all the kids being involved in it because we had all really good kids who were really focused. They played together. They cared about each other. And those were the things we tried to emphasize. I'm an old high school coach. I tried to emphasize the things I did when I coached high school.

IC: Where did you coach in high school?

Coach: I coached in five different high schools. [The last was] Douglas High School outside of Reno, Nevada.

IC: Tell me about Brad's work ethic in practice.

Coach: We didn't get much practice time. We got about two days of practice before we played in the Vegas tournament. He will be a great addition to wherever he goes because he wants to be real good and that's the number one thing. If a kid wants to be real good—parents can want it, coaches can want it—I don't care how great a player he is, it's got to be up to the kid. I think it's real important to [Brad] to be real good.

IC: Did Brad talk to you about colleges that were showing an interest in him?

Coach: To be real honest, I tried to stay really removed from all of that. All I tried to do, anytime a school would talk to me about Brad, I would go straight to Brad and ask him, "Do you want to be recruited by them?"

IC: Do you think North Carolina was showing an interest in Brad?

Coach: Oh yeah. They were very visible throughout the whole summer.

IC: What do you think Brad should look for in a college program? What's important to you, as a coach, for him?

Coach: I think the number one thing a kid's got to look at is they've got to go to a school that they really want to go there. And not just basketball. They obviously are going there for basketball but they've got to take a look at the size of the school they're going to, the academic setting that's going to be conducive to them.

Once they get done with school, is it an area they might like to like to live in? Are there opportunities that the school is going to be able to give them, academically, after they're done? Obviously, basketball is going to be a high priority, but I think they've got to look at all those other factors—the cultural climate of the school, the academics of the school, the location of the school. Are they going to be happy there? Is it too far away? Is it too close to home? All those things. Those are all going to be huge factors.

IC: To whom do you compare Brad' game on the college level or on the pro level?

Coach: I'm just not good at comparing. Brad's game, in terms of a lot of ways—his post skills—he's like a Kevin McHale inside the post. He's very adept at doing a variety of post moves. He's not one dimensional in the post. He gets it and he can lift up and under, a little hook, he can do a lot of things. That's a real credit to… like a McHale kind of guy. Some of your readers might not remember Kevin McHale… Someone like that. Like I said, he's very solid. He does a lot of little things in basketball. He passes the ball well… It's hard to compare him to somebody.

IC: Do you have any other comments you'd like to make on Brad?

Coach: The fact that—this is probably getting repetitive—he has a great personality that's real infectious. Those are great kids to be around. You get a kid like that—good things happen! He's a great kid. He comes from a great family. Both his parents and his older brother are great people and very supportive and I think it shows in the way Brad carries himself. He's in a great high school situation with a coach that does an outstanding job. So he's surrounded with a real quality which I think helps Brad be the type of person he is.

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