Interview with Buckman's coach

<i>InsideCarolina</i>'s David Thompson spoke on Tuesday afternoon with Austin (TX) Westlake head coach Clifton McNeely concerning his senior star power forward, Brad Buckman.

McNeely notes in the interview that Coach Doherty did not travel to Austin today, but rather assistant coach Doug Wojcik will watch Buckman's game tonight and meet with him afterwards.


Inside Carolina: Brad's been back in Austin a little while now after him being gone this summer. How does he look?

Coach Clifton McNeely: He looks outstanding. He's definitely made progress. I think, right now, he's not that sharp, but I think a lot of it is that he's got a lot on his mind right now.

IC: He's got a lot of people contacting him each day …

McNeely: Yeah, he and I both, so [laughing] he wasn't the only one getting some sleepless nights.

IC: In what ways can you see improvement/progress since last year in Brad's game?

Coach Clifton McNeely

McNeely: The biggest thing is he's increased his range. He's very consistent shooting the ball [to] 21-22 feet out. That makes him an even more potent offensive threat. I think, obviously, his size and strength have continued and his aggressive style of play has improved.

IC: What are you working with him the most about?

McNeely: Here you have to understand that there're three of us during our athletic period and we only have them for 50 minutes and we have 75 kids in our program so we've got to divide that up with all the kids. So we emphasize everything with all of them in terms of fundamentals right now and we start official practice October 22nd. And when we get to October 22nd then we get to break it down a little bit more with him individually.

IC: How would you describe Brad's recruiting right now?

McNeely: I think Brad right now is very undecided. I think he's trying to decide what's best for him.

IC: What's it like for you, having been through this before with Luke Axtell and Chris Mihm? How does Brad's recruiting compare?

McNeely: Well, Brad's is a lot different because Chris and Luke both committed early and they committed in their junior years and did not want to be recruited by anybody else so the recruitment with the three of them has been totally different.

IC: I understand that Brad and you recently sat down to talk about Texas and North Carolina and the decision that Brad is making. Brad explained that you had helped him to evaluate by listing out several factors in a chart to rate the schools by. What were some of the factors you looked at?

McNeely: Just several different things, personally, between Brad and I and I'd rather not violate that trust. What he visits with you about is between the two of you, but we looked at factors—ten things we thought were important to Brad in making his decision and I wanted him to just sit down and look at it on paper and see some concrete things in front of him.

IC: What do you sense are the major factors that Brad is working through right now?

McNeely: I think, really, he's just trying to just decide which institute is going to be the best for him. I think, it comes down to really, does he want to stay home and try to help continue building the program that Rick Barnes is doing at the University of Texas or does he want to carry on the tradition of North Carolina basketball.

IC: Do you know and can you confirm whether Brad will be going to Midnight with the Tar Heels this Friday?

McNeely: No, I believe he's staying here in town.

IC: You do think he's staying in Austin?

McNeely: Yes, I do.

IC: I also understand that Coach Doherty was at Brad's practice today?

McNeely: No, he was not.

IC: Is he going to be there today at all?

McNeely: No, he's not visiting with Coach Doherty. We thought it would be best that he didn't. I believe Coach Wojcik is going to stop by briefly this evening and visit with Brad shortly after his fall league game, and then the rest will be limited to the telephone call each week.

IC: I understand that Coach Doherty and Coach Barnes both were together at one of Brad's practices. How does that work out, with both at the practice at the same time?

McNeely: Actually, the two of them were here, I guess it was last week or the week before last—I guess it was last week they were both here together. What those two have to do and to say while they're sitting up in the stands is their business. I mean, they're the only two sitting in the stands and obviously they're sitting, visiting with each other. On the other hand, Brad's in practice and my job as a coach is to keep him focused on what he's doing in practice and he knows that when walks out on the hardwood for me that his first priority is Westlake basketball right now.

IC: What advice do you have for Brad as he's finalizing his decision?

McNeely: My advice to him has always been the same. It's my job to give him what I think is the most important information about making decisions about the two programs and the institutes. And I think, in terms of what Brad is looking at, I think he needs to go to the program that he feels is going to give him the opportunity for the greatest success.

And that's something that he's got to decide for himself. Can he go to North Carolina with the great richness and tradition of their basketball program and continue to excel and meet his highest level?

Or can he go to the University of Texas and their basketball program which Rick Barnes has done a great job of re-building here, so to speak, in the last few years. And I don't know if coaches like to use that term "re-building"—I don't, but he's turned the program around and can Brad go there and help them advance their program further and can Brad still reach the level of greatness I think he has?

So I think he's trying to answer which of those programs he's going to be able to do that at the best.

IC: Do you have any sense in how he's leaning?

McNeely: No, not really. One day I feel it's all in favor of Carolina and the next day everything sounds like he's going to Texas and then the next day it's back to Carolina. I really think it's back and forth right now. It's back and forth in his mind. I think it's back and forth with all the elements he's looking at in terms of trying to make that decision. His relationship and his pride in the state of Texas and his family being Longhorn fans and something he's grown up with all his life versus the opportunity to play in one of the richest basketball traditions in America, college basketball, and I think he's trying to decide "what is the best for me?"

IC: When do you think he'll make his decision?

McNeely: I think, realistically—I've asked Brad—you know, where he is at this point and I think that we're looking at somewhere a week from now. He'll make the decision, I would say, somewhere around, between the 16th and the 18th of October. Right now I think he's kind of got those dates in mind and somewhere in there he's looking at trying to make the decision whether it's Carolina, whether it's Texas or whether he needs to wait until the spring.

IC: How would you advise Brad to make his announcement—by press conference or by phoning coaches only?

McNeely: I don't know. I think that when he's ready, when he knows in his mind where he's going, then he and I and his parents will visit and see how we want to handle the announcement.

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