Tournament Notebook: Buford, Offutt And More

William Buford has done plenty to surprise Ohio State fans this season, and he does not plan to let up next season. Find out what goals the freshman has for next season -- and he said he plans to stay for his sophomore year -- as well as what makes Walter Offutt a key member for the Buckeyes in this notebook.

DAYTON – William Buford has a few goals for himself for next season that might be surprising given his tenure at Ohio State.

As a freshman, the Toledo native has established himself as a scorer whose high-arching jump shots seem to nearly tough the rafters before they tickle the twine. The one knock on his game throughout most of the season has been his defense – or, rather, his lack thereof.

Due to that reputation for being an all-offense, no-defense player, Buford has set at least one lofty goal for next season.

He wants to be the Big Ten's defensive player of the year.

"Yeah, or first-team all-defensive Big Ten," he said. "People are always doubting my defense, saying I don't have any defense and I want to prove them wrong. I want to prove to myself that I can play defense on any level."

That statement implies that OSU's third-leading scorer will be back in the scarlet and gray next season. The Big Ten's freshman of the year has been pegged as a player who might be considering leaving for the NBA after this season, but Buford said that he has no plans to even discuss the possibility when his season is over.

"Oh yeah, without a doubt," he said when asked if he will return for his sophomore year. "I haven't thought about leaving and I don't plan on leaving. I like the people, the school. I feel that I need to elevate my game to a different level."

Doing so would include improving his game on the defensive end, and to do that Buford said he plans to spend the summer guarding the best players he can find on the court.

"When you can score 30 and don't give up 30, that's real good," he said. "That's an advantage. I want to score and be able to not let my opponent score."

At least one of his teammates thinks Buford is capable of elevating his defense to an elite level.

"I think he can (win the award)," sophomore swingman Evan Turner said. "He was blessed with long arms and great speed. I think he can."

Lighty Jr.? The basketball team goes through a number of rituals before games, but one inevitably shows up on television.

Gathered in a circle near the foul line closest to their bench, the Buckeyes join arms and crouch down low before swaying back and forth in unison. After a second or two, one player detaches himself from the group, runs to the center of the circle and proceeds to shout at his teammates in a final effort to fire them up.

Although no one player is specified for that role, the Buckeyes have found their go-to guy in recent weeks.

It is Walter Offutt, the seldom-used freshman guard who has averaged 4.7 minutes of action in 20 appearances this season and once went five straight games without seeing a second's worth of game action. Despite that lack of playing time this season, Offutt has displayed an ability to inspire his teammates that has led to his ascent to the role of team leader.

"Walt? Have you ever talked to Walt?" Turner said. "He's a pretty intense guy. Little things like watching basketball get him so motivated and riled up. If a rough play occurs, he gets really riled up.

"He's carried enough heart for all of us. He really embraced it. You can tell from the look on his face that he's ready to go to war. You look at him and you know you're going to get 110 percent from him."

Offutt said he could not remember exactly when he started being the guy in the middle but said it was early this season.

"My teammates pretty much want me in the middle so I can get the guys hyped up," he said. "I enjoy it."

His participation is not guaranteed from game to game, but rather is determined by how Offutt feels each time heading into the ritual. The freshman has been compared to the team's elder statesman in the process.

"I guess they use me as an energizer to get everybody pumped up," he said. "I start yelling and I've got a lot of energy. They refer to me as a young David Lighty because David's got a lot of energy. They refer to me as his little brother. I have a lot of energy and my teammates feed from it."

Seated next to Offutt in the team's locker room at UD Arena one day prior to the team's first-round NCAA Tournament game with Siena, junior center Kyle Madsen started laughing when he heard Offutt being asked about his role in the circle.

Asked why he was laughing, Madsen responded simply with, "He's crazy."

Scouting The Bigs: As Siena prepared for the Buckeyes, its post players have studied up on OSU's Dallas Lauderdale and B.J. Mullens. In the process, Saints forward Ryan Rossiter said he has seen that the two can be inconsistent at times.

He has also noticed a difference or two between the two players.

"I think Mullens is a little more offensively skilled," he said. "They look for him a little more than they do Lauderdale, but Lauderdale's a great player. We definitely can't forget about him. He gets a lot of rebounds and big buckets, so we've got to look out for him also."


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