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Published: Saturday, 6/30/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Pro career for Buford must start from scratch

Libbey, OSU star takes free-agent route

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
William Buford. William Buford.
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As Thursday night gave way to Friday morning, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver read the last of 60 names selected in the 2012 draft.

None of them was William Buford -- an omission few could have imagined only months earlier.

Yet the clock hardly struck midnight on the former Libbey and Ohio State star's professional career.

Buford, who was named Mr. Ohio as the state's top basketball player in 2008 and started four years at OSU, and other top undrafted players will now likely sign with an NBA team as free agents and play for the organization's summer league team in Orlando or Las Vegas. Because second-round selections do not receive guaranteed contracts, some draft analysts suggest fringe players like Buford are better off not being selected and joining a team with a heap of needs.

Buford will then hope to make an NBA roster or explore other options, possibly overseas. Former Buckeyes teammates Jon Diebler (Greece) and David Lighty (Italy) took that path last season.

"William would be a great complementary piece on any professional team," said Leroy Bates, Buford's coach at Libbey.

Buford endured intense scrutiny -- and mixed reviews -- as he crossed the nation working out for a dozen or so NBA teams over the past two months.

A former McDonald's All-American who emerged at Libbey as one of the nation's most coveted recruits, the 6-foot-5 guard was billed as an athletic and deft long-range shooter. He finished his four-year college career tied with tied with Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas on Ohio State's all-time scoring list and averaged a career-high 14.5 points last season.

"I do hope that William goes down -- because he will in my mind -- as one of the best Ohio State's had," OSU coach Thad Matta said earlier this year. "The stats are there to prove that."

But Buford's stock slipped amid questions on his inconsistent shot -- his 3-point shooting percentage dropped from 44.2 as a junior to 35.8 percent last year -- and conditioning, a concern underscored by his recent performance at the NBA Combine in Chicago. His 11.3 percent body fat was third-highest among the 60 prospects.

Buford told reporters he had added weight because of a stomach virus. "But that's no excuse for my body fat," he said. "It's never been that high."

Bates suggested Buford's agents and former college coaches should have taken greater lengths to ensure Buford remained in shape.

"That's not to say they didn't do that," he said. "It's just a matter of, evidently, it wasn't done or [Buford] didn't apply that information."

Joe Kotoch, a Cleveland-based agent who runs the site probasketballdraft.com, said Buford has to "prove the conditioning stuff was an isolated incident."

"That's what his camp was saying," Kotoch said. "His first opportunity to reflect that is the summer league."

Buford and his agents, Herb Rudoy and Ron Shade of Chicago-based Interperformances, did not return messages.

Buford, though, can glean hope from the long list of players who went undrafted only to enjoy successful NBA careers -- a roster that includes Bruce Bowen, John Starks, Avery Johnson, Andres Nocioni, Brad Miller, David Wesley, and Ben Wallace. And this year, Buford was joined on the wrong side of the bubble by former Xavier All-American guard Tu Holloway and Kevin Jones, a West Virginia forward who led the Big East in scoring and rebounding last season.

The former three-time Toledo City League Player of the Year also knows the path from Toledo to the NBA is well-traveled. Buford is vying to become the fourth Toledo-bred Ohio State star to play in the league.

First came Kelvin Ransey, then Dennis Hopson, and Jim Jackson. Is Buford next?

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.



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