Difficult Season Has Made A Believer Of Buckman

By any measure, it’s been an unbelievable season for a Texas basketball team reduced to seven scholarship players. But the adversity has finally made a believer of previously erratic F Brad Buckman, who now is consistently tapping into his vast potential. For his work, the junior was named Big 12 Player of the Week.

Buckman averaged 22.0 points and 15.5 rebounds per game the past two games while hitting 12-of-20 (.600) field goals and 20-of-25 (.800) free throws.

"We’ve always told him that he was a double-double guy and we’ve always believed that," head coach Rick Barnes said Monday. "In the past, he’s proven he can do it but consistency’s been the problem. But he’s been very consistent, and I think he’s made a conscious effort to really be aggressive close to the basket."

Buckman notched a career-high 27 points (7-of-11 FG, 13-of-16 FT) and a career-best 21 boards in 35 minutes at Colorado. He became just the third player in program history and sixth person in Big 12 Conference history to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game. His 21 rebounds tied for the fourth-highest single-game rebound total in school history and were the most at Texas in 23 years (21 by LaSalle Thompson at SMU on Jan. 9, 1982).

Buckman tallied 17 points (5-of-9 FG, 7-of-9 FT) and 10 rebounds in 40 minutes during Saturday’s overtime win against Kansas State.

For the 16-7 Longhorns (5-5 in Big 12), Buckman’s recent productivity must be the norm rather than the exception if Texas hopes to advance to a seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Horns will likely need to win four of their remaining seven games (to include their first Big 12 tourney game) to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

"Right now, we really need a double-double out of (Buckman) almost every night," Barnes said. "He’s accepted that challenge. Now, for the first time in his life, I think he believes that what we’ve been telling him for a long time that he has the ability to do that, night-in and night-out."

Buckman logged his first start as a freshman against Arizona in December, 2002, but Monday’s conference award marks the first time he has received the weekly honor. He led his team in FG percentage as a freshman but then was pulled from the starting lineup for the second half of the 2003-04 season when he never quite emerged from a sophomore slump. Now, the loss of starting front court mates P.J. Tucker (academically ineligible) and LaMarcus Aldridge (hip injury) has brought out the warrior in Buckman.

"For whatever reason, it takes some guys longer than others," Barnes noted. "I can’t answer (why). If I could, I would have had it in place a long time ago. It’s just a matter of him putting it in the book and doing it."

Currently, Buckman leads the team in rebounding (8.2 rpg) and blocked shots (40) and ranks second in scoring (11.9 ppg). He has averaged 14 boards the past five outings. He has recorded three consecutive double-doubles and has averaged 21.3 points and 15.3 rebounds during this span.

"If he rebounds that way, he’s going to score points," Barnes added. "Once he gets going in that direction, the offense will take care of itself for him."

Texas hosts Texas A&M (15-6, 4-6 Big 12) on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Tip is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised in the state of Texas only on Fox Sports Southwest.

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