Buford Returning To Form

William Buford entered his sophomore season at Ohio State with plenty of expectations on his shoulders. Now more than midway through the year, the Toledo native is starting to more closely resemble the player he was in high school -- in more ways than one.

William Buford is borrowing more and more from the way he played basketball in high school.

Accustomed to doing everything during a prep career at Toledo Libbey, Buford averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds while earning Mr. Ohio Basketball honors as a senior. Back then, there was not a rebound he did not expect to grab or a basket he did not expect to convert.

Now midway through his sophomore season at Ohio State, Buford is beginning to grow into that all-around player he was in the Glass City. He also still throws up a lot at halftime.

During one game as a freshman, head coach Thad Matta said Buford had to find a clean jersey as a result.

"It comes and goes but it's really nothing," Buford told BSB. "It's been happening since the first game I ever played. Every now and then I'll just get the jitters and throw up. It doesn't have any impact on my game at all. It's just how I'm feeling."

Throughout the early part of the 2009-10 season, Matta has frequently mentioned Buford being sick at halftime. Rather than suffering from a season-long case of the H1N1 virus, it is apparently just a piece of what makes Buford the player he is.

Matta said there is no correlation between whether or not Buford gets sick and how he plays during the game, and the player himself said his teammates have not bothered him about it.

"They don't mess with me about it because I still come out and play my game whether I throw up or not," he said.

Although his shooting percentage is down from a freshman season that saw him capture the Big Ten freshman of the year award, Buford is proving that his abilities are worth the occasional locker room squeamishness.

In 33 games last season, Buford handed out 35 assists. He had nearly half that many in one game this year when he dished out 10 helpers against Eastern Michigan when leading distributor Evan Turner went out with a back injury.

Through 19 games this season, he already has 60 assists.

"He's been sharper, he's been crisper," Matta said of Buford after the EMU game. "I think that he is really trying. We've asked him to be more of a complete player and today it was evident that he's making strides in that regard."

On top of that, he has emerged as one of the team's top rebounders from his spot on the wing. Listed at 6-5, 200 pounds, Buford has upped his rebounding average from 3.7 one year ago to 5.2 this season. That ranks him second best on the Buckeyes behind junior Evan Turner, but in conference play his average of 7.4 boards is tops among his teammates and seventh in the Big Ten.

Matta credited his knack for being able to see the ball come off the rim and his ability to grab it at its highest point.

"We need anybody to come get the boards, so I figure why not be me?" Buford said. "I just try to get to the boards and get any that I can and play hard. I'm trying to go back to my old days and how it was and not being one-dimensional. I'm trying to be a universal player."

OSU's top two rebounders are guards. In order to rebound from the wing, junior guard Jon Diebler said some of what a player needs to be successful is instinctual.

"Having that knack for the ball and going to get it, they're both very athletic and have very long arms," he said of Buford and Turner. "Being able to jump and get the ball at the highest point really helps them out."

From a scoring standpoint, Buford has not always shown growth from his freshman campaign. Although he sits second on the team in scoring with an average of 13.9 points per game, his shooting percentage has dipped from 44.8 percent a year ago to 40.6 percent this year.

Included in there is the first shooting slump of his career. During a five-game stretch earlier this season, Buford went a combined 14 for 60 (23.3 percent) from the field. He righted the ship against EMU and embarked upon a 10-game stretch during which he scored no fewer than 11 points in a game.

"He finds openings and seams and moves well without the basketball," Matta said. "I would say he's got a pretty good feel overall for how to play."

As for his little halftime problem, Buford said to consider it a tip of the cap to a former NBA great: Bill Russell, who reportedly would get sick before each game.

"(My teammates) said Bill Russell used to do that all the time," he said with a laugh. "I'm just taking a page out of his book."

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