William Buford, the former Libbey and Ohio State star, was not selected in last month's NBA draft, but he did earn a look with the Minnesota Timberwolves' Summer League team in Las Vegas.
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William Buford wishes he could have a do-over.
In an ideal lead-up to last month's NBA draft, the former Libbey and Ohio State star would have worked harder and felt better. Buford endured a nagging cold and worse as he spanned the country working out for potential employers.
"I had a stomach virus through most of it, too," he said in a phone interview. "So that kind of took a toll on my conditioning and I got tired. But it is what it is. I learn from my mistakes."
Ultimately, Buford is content where he landed.
After not hearing his name on draft night -- an admitted wake-up siren few envisioned only months earlier -- he redoubled his training efforts and joined the Minnesota Timberwolves' entry in the NBA Summer League.
It is Buford's second chance to make an impression, and he embraces both the pressure and opportunity. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard was upbeat as usual as he spoke with a reporter Monday from a Las Vegas gym, a few hours before the Timberwolves began their five-game summer schedule against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I'm real excited," he said. "This is like a dream for me. I'm glad they gave me a chance and an opportunity to showcase what I can do, and I'm going to go as hard as I can."
Buford believes he has a legitimate opportunity to make an NBA team this fall. His resume stands out among the Timberwolves' 19-man Vegas roster while the summer league -- which features rookies, second-year players and free agents -- is a well-traveled stop en route to a bigger stage.
The Timberwolves' last summer team included future NBA players Wayne Ellington, Jonny Flynn, Lazar Hayward, Wes Johnson, Jeremy Pargo, and Greg Stiemsma. This year, after former first-round picks Wes Johnson and Derrick Williams, Buford is one of the team's top second-tier players, along with second-round selection Robbie Hummel from Purdue.
In Las Vegas, Buford -- who was named Mr. Ohio as the state's top high school basketball player in 2008 and finished his four-year career at OSU tied for third all-time in scoring -- will need to quell concerns on the consistency of his outside stroke and his conditioning.
Buford's star faded slightly at Ohio State when his 3-point shooting percentage dropped from 44.2 as a junior to 35.8 last season, then took another hit during pre-draft workouts as teams questioned his commitment. At the NBA combine in Chicago, his 11.3 percent body fat was third-highest among the 60 prospects.
"He looked a little heavy at the combine, didn't shoot it real well, so he probably hurt himself," an unnamed NBA scout told SI.com last month. "I wouldn't draft him."
Buford said the criticism and draft-night uncertainty was disappointing, but not dispiriting.
"It wasn't that tough," he said. "Things happen. It just didn't go my way, but I knew I had an opportunity to make it another way. I didn't let it bring me down. I just came in and worked harder than I worked before."
Joe Kotoch, a Cleveland-based agent who runs the Web site pro basketballdraft.com, said Buford's representatives told NBA teams the fitness issues were a one-time blip.
Buford said Monday he is healthy and back in mid-season shape.
"Oh yeah, absolutely," he said. "That was something that was under my control. I needed to work harder and do extra running and be in the gym more. I've been doing that and I think it's been showing."
In Buford's mind, the first audition of the rest of his life began Monday in Sin City, where he will spend the next week playing for a small per diem but no salary. He hopes an NBA team in need of a deadeye reserve will then save him a roster spot.
"I just need to show teams that I can knock down shots, play as hard as I can and just be a winner," Buford said. "If I showcase that, I think I have a great opportunity to be successful in this league."
Contact David Briggs at: email@example.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @RBriggsBlade.
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