Being Big Ten Freshman of the Year might satisfy most — but not William Buford.
The Toledo native is determined to make his name known and has been working to become a better player in the offseason.
Buford had an opportunity last season to get more minutes after an injury ended the season for junior David Lighty. Even with Lighty back this season, Buford still figures prominently in the Buckeyes’ plans for the season.
For Buford, it is important to apply what he learned as an inexperienced freshman to his play this year.
“I learned a lot from last season coming into this year,” Buford said, “but probably the most important thing would be to play hard; to leave everything on the floor every second that I am out there.”
His play last season sparked the Buckeyes offensively. Buford takes pride in being a scorer, and the Buckeyes often relied on him to take the pressure of scoring off of junior Evan Turner.
Buford knows scoring is important, but it’s not all that is expected from him.
“I think my role is to score for one,” Buford said. “I’ll do whatever it is my team needs, though, whether it’s rebounds or steals. I’d like to get more steals, though, that’s one thing for sure.”
With a year of experience, Buford said being more vocal is something he wants to do this season. He said everyone on the team talks and helps each other, but he is more willing to point out a mistake or correct a teammate because he wants to make everyone around him better.
Scoring might be what everyone expects from Buford, but the potential starter used the offseason to improve all facets of his game.
“I worked hard to try and improve my ball handling,” Buford said. “I worked on all aspects of my game, especially defense. I’ve really been trying to work on everything to get my game better.”
Buford averaged 11.3 points per game with a .361 percentage from behind the arc. His offensive game has always been his strong suit, but Buford said he will try to continue improving in this area.
His teammates know how versatile he can be, and that defenses will have to account for Buford’s scoring ability.
“He’s doing what he does best, and that’s scoring the ball. That’s really what Will does,” Lighty said. “He’s grown in the aspect of knowing the offense and being able to execute better when he gets his opportunity. I think he has worked hard to be a better complete player, with his defense and everything.”
Lighty said opponents will have to start planning more for Buford this season by putting a stable defender on him.
Turner, who had a breakout season his sophomore year, expects much of the same from the talented Buford in his second year.
“I’ve just always thought Will was good,” Turner said. “I’ve always thought Will was a lot better than teams give him credit for, and this is going to be a big year where teams will have to respect him more. He is a big-time player. He has a nice shot, and his ability to score is crazy.
“Last year teams would just throw a decent defender on him like he wasn’t an all American or Mr. Basketball of Ohio. This year teams will have to throw a top defender on him.”