As Senior, Buford Working On Game

There isn't much doubt that William Buford can fill up the cylinder, skills he showed on the way to 26 points in Value City Arena Saturday, but Scout's No. 3 shooting guard is working on some other skills in an effort to become a more complete player and lead his team to a possible state title in 2008.

Getting William Buford to talk about his play is easier said than done.

So one journalist found out while talking to the Ohio State basketball signee after Buford led his Toledo Libbey team to a 72-58 win over Lakewood St. Edward Saturday as part of the National City Classic in Value City Arena. It was a reasonable request, considering the 6-4 Buford was named his team's most valuable player thanks to a 26-point, 11-rebound performance that included 11 fourth-quarter points.

But Buford shook off the request as easily as he pushed aside the Eagle defenders on the way to the impressive showing.

"No, I don't really talk about that," he said when asked to talk about his day. "It's just the team. Give my team all the credit."

Perhaps its an attitude like that that has Buford's Libbey Cowboys ranked second in Ohio's Division II at 10-1 after weekend wins over St. Ed's, which was 10th in Division I at the time, and crosstown rival Toledo St. John's. A night before traveling to Columbus, Buford dropped 27 on Titans as Libbey moved to 6-1 and first place in the Toledo City League.

"It feels real good," he said. "We just have to keep on staying on preparing for our next game. We have a lot of games coming up and some big games, so we have to keep our composure and keep going out and playing hard."

Going after a state title is a priority this year for Buford, who saw his Libbey squad fall to St. John's in the round of 32 of the Division I playoffs in 2007.

"We're going to keep going hard in practice, keep playing aggressive defense and just keep doing everything that our coaches tell us to do and try to come down and win the state," he said.

For Buford himself, doing what the coaches say has included improving defensively and working on sharing the ball. Ironically enough, Libbey recently switched to a man-to-man defense that is favored by Ohio State head coach Thad Matta during a season in which Matta's charges have played more zone than in previous seasons. Against St. Edward, Buford tied for the game high in steals with two and said he hopes the defense helps him prepare for playing under his soon-to-be head coach.

Offensively, he showed the skills that have made him a five-star prospect, the No. 3 shooting guard and No. 12 overall player according to Scout. He showed an ability to fill the cylinder a la former Buckeye Daequan Cook or even one of his favorite Buckeyes, two-time Big Ten player of the year Jim Jackson, scoring both inside in traffic and via open jumpers. Though he did not have any assists, he stood aside when teammates Brad Sandridge and Julius Wells were heating up as crunch time neared.

"We've challenged him continuously to play better defense and to really get the other players involved," Libbey head coach Leroy Bates said. "He's not a selfish player, but he needs to get other people involved so that everybody has to be played against. I think he's done that and that's made this a better team overall."

Those are also the skills that will translate to the next level under Matta. However, while Buford said he is working on his strength, defense and unselfishness as a senior, those cues have not come from Matta. Instead, the only thing he hears from the fourth-year coach is a message to keep an emphasis on his studies.

"He doesn't try to be there too much," Buford said. "He just says to keep my grades up and keep working on my game. Coach Matta is such a good coach and a good guy. I knew that I wanted to be here with him."

The Cowboys have played an Ohio-trotting schedule that has included such noteworthy schools as Columbus Africentric, Trotwood-Madison, Canton McKinley and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. However, the showdown against St. Edward – a team that includes Indiana signee Tom Pritchard and should have featured Michigan State commit Delvon Roe, who is injured – was special because of the venue.

"Oh yeah," he said if it felt good to play in Value City Arena. "It always feels good to win. Next year I'm glad I'm coming so we can try to do what Greg Oden did and then win a national title."

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