July 17, 2010

Buford hopes his game will grow in Vegas

COLUMBUS, Ohio - When William Buford walked into the interview room in the Schottenstein Center to meet with the media Wednesday, he sported a vibrant smile.



Apparently that smile has been on his face since Thursday.



That's because Buford got the news late last week that he had been invited with 19 other college basketball players to practice against the 2010 USA Men's National Team in Las Vegas during the team's training camp July 19-24.



"I had the biggest smile on my face ever. I was just real excited," Buford said Wednesday. "I called my parents as soon as I found out. I was so excited I wanted to tell everybody because it is such an honor. I am ready to go."



Buford will take off for Las Vegas on Sunday to participate in what he considers one of the most pivotal weeks of basketball in his career in terms of the development of his game.



Buford was selected with fellow Big Ten players JaJuan Johnson of Purdue, Jon Leuer of Wisconsin, John Shurna of Northwestern[/db], and Mike Tisdale of Illinois, but it is the opportunity to play against some of the elite talent of the NBA that has this Buckeye particularly excited.



"It's a test for me to see where my game is at, going against some of the best players in the world," Buford said. "I'm just going to try to soak up as much as I can from them to be good at this level and the next level."



Buford will take part in private training sessions before practicing against the USA squad preparing for the FIBA World Championships in Turkey taking place Aug. 28-Sept.12.



While it is unclear who all will be participating from the National Team, it is possible Buford could get a chance to get on the court with NBA stars like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and O.J. Mayo.



Though playing against some of the NBA's brightest stars may be intimidating for some, Buford maintained that he wasn't losing any sleep over it.



"Not at all," Buford answered when asked if he was worried about covering NBA players, "because I feel they've got to defend me too so I don't really think about that too much.



"You're going to get some of the best players in the world," he continued. "Going against them should let you know where your game is."



Last season Buford's role expanded in his sophomore season as the second scoring option behind standout point guard Evan Turner. While Turner was the team's No. 1 option when it came to scoring and rebounding, Buford emerged as a major scoring option for the Buckeyes.



Buford put up 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season - both of which were second best on the team only behind Turner - but it wasn't his offensive prowess that caught his teammates' attention.



There is no question Buford can let go the prettiest jump shot you will ever see, but it was defensively where he grew the most as a sophomore.



"I mean (Buford) is showing it every day in workouts and in practice and open gyms that we have," said David Lighty, who was a part of the U-19 team in the World Championships two years ago. "The sky is the limit for him. He is getting better and better each day with his all-around game. Him playing a little bit of defense this year, that was the main thing that got me excited about him. That shows the maturity in his game."



Buford said he could notice a little more hop in his step since he has been invited to partake in the training sessions. Each day, Buford says, he just hopes to take one more step further in improving his game.



And there's nothing like facing the best competition in the world to bring out that extra enthusiasm.



"Ever since I've been invited to Vegas it's just like no prisoners," said Buford. "I'm going against the best people in the world so I can't go out there nonchalant. I really have to step my game up."



Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.



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