Libbey junior basketball standout William Buford, a 6-foot-5 guard-forward who was The Blade's player of the year last season and a Division I second-team All-Ohio selection, has verbally accepted a scholarship offer from Ohio State University.
As a sophomore last year, Buford averaged a City League-best 22.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game for the Cowboys en route to sharing CL player of the year honors with St. Francis senior guard Darryl Roberts.
He picked the defending Big Ten-champion Buckeyes after weighing offers from several other top NCAA programs, including Michigan State, Illinois and Indiana of the Big Ten, according to veteran Libbey coach Leroy Bates.
"The [OSU] coaching staff and everyone involved during this process was very patient with William," Bates said. "They didn't try to force him into anything. They always let him know that he was high on their priority list, but they didn't pressure him to make a decision before he was ready."
Buford also received strong recruiting interest from other national powers such as Kansas, Kentucky and Louisville; from most of the Big Ten, including Michigan, and from much of the Mid-American Conference, including Toledo and Bowling Green. Arkansas and Georgetown were also recruiting the gifted Libbey player.
"I picked Ohio State because it's close to home and it was the best decision for me and my family," Buford said. "I liked their academics, their style of play and everything about Ohio State.
"My parents [William and Arnetta] were very happy because they wanted me to go there. They wanted to be able to see me play."
Bates has seen Buford play for the past two seasons as a varsity starter, and is impressed with more than just Buford's basketball ability.
"He's a very loyal and dedicated person as well as an athlete," Bates said, "and he'll do whatever is necessary to improve.
"On the court, his skill level is very high, he's very athletic, he's a good rebounder, he's a team player and he has a winning attitude. He hates to lose, and that's a good thing."
Buford delivered against the best competition last year, with 22 points and 13 rebounds versus back-to-back D-I state champion Canton McKinley, 29 points and 14 boards against eventual D-II state champion Dayton Dunbar, 27 points and nine rebounds versus D-II semifinalist Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, and 29 and 14 against one of Michigan's top teams, Detroit Redford.
In selecting Ohio State and coach Thad Matta, Buford will likely be joining some of the nation's most coveted talent when he arrives for the 2008-09 season.
Matta landed the nation's No. 1-rated prep star from 2005-06 in Greg Oden, a supremely talented 7-footer from Indianapolis.
Although it has been widely speculated that Oden will only play one season at OSU before entering the NBA draft, the Buckeyes have also pulled in several other highly regarded national recruits, and have current Upper Sandusky senior scoring star Jon Diebler already committed for next year.
"Coach Matta is a straight-forward person, and he's got a good personality" Buford said. "He was real with me. It's a great program. I'm going to have to work hard to earn my playing time and a starting spot."
Buford's early commitment allows him the freedom to play his final two prep seasons minus the pressure of the recruiting process.
"It's a relief," Buford said. "Now I don't have to worry about anything else except my schoolwork. I can have fun out on the court trying to win a state championship."
Buford maintains a 2.5 grade-point average, and has yet to take his college entrance exam. Libbey is viewed as one of Ohio's top teams entering the upcoming 2006-07 season.
Buford will be following in the footsteps of some great City League players who each went on to successful careers at Ohio State.
Macomber's Wardell Jackson, who started for the Buckeyes for three seasons (1972-74) and was team captain as a senior.
Macomber's Kelvin Ransey started all four years (1977-80), was All-Big Ten three times, team captain twice, made the All-American team as a senior, is fourth in career scoring at 1,934 points, and played several seasons in the NBA.
Bowsher grad Dennis Hopson lettered four times (1984-87), started three years, is the Buckeyes' career scoring leader at 2,096 points, was the Big Ten player of the year and an All-American as a senior captain, and was the third overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft. He played on an NBA championship team with the Chicago Bulls.
Next up was arguably Toledo's greatest player, Macomber's Jim Jackson.
In his three years at OSU Jackson was twice named both Big Ten player of the year and an All-American, and ranks sixth in career scoring with 1,785 points. He has spent 14 seasons in the NBA.
The last prominent Buckeye from the City League was St. John's Jesuit's Neshaun Coleman, a four-year (1996-99) OSU player who started his first two years and was team captain as a junior and senior. He subbed on Ohio State's Final Four team in 1999.
"I'm going to have to keep the tradition up and follow in their footsteps" Buford said of his acclaimed City League/Ohio State predecessors. "Hopefully, I can also make it to the NBA after college."
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