A year ago, Eric Bridges was the number one option for the Tigers, and more often than not he responded in big-time fashion.
Now, Bridges is gone, and the high-scoring Buckner is the number one option, something opponents of the Tigers are well aware of.
A week ago, Callaway head coach Terry Hayes talked about how concerned he was about defending Buckner when the two teams play Friday night.
He made no bones about it. Buckner is a priority for Callaway.
While Buckner makes a lot of noise on the court, the 6-foot, 175-pound senior guard is somewhat of a quiet young man, and his answers are short and to the point. But when told of Hayes’ concern for him, all he could do was crack a big smile.
“I go out here and do the best I can,” Buckner said. “I get my team involved with me and win, hopefully all the games.”
Buckner has the usual goals when it comes to a final senior season, but one is clearly a sign of where his top priorities are at this point. “I want to play hard, give my all and beat LaGrange,” he quipped. Troup head coach Thermond Billingslea said of Buckner, “he’s a steady ball player, a hard worker and he believes in winning so the bottom line is, he’s a winner. That’s what I like about him.”
Billingslea said Buckner is a pure shooter from outside. “If you leave him open, he can hit the three,” Billingslea said. “Off the court, he’s kind of a quiet young man. He’s not outspoken. Off the court, he goes about his own business. He’s not a loud person. He’s real quiet and I think he demands respect by doing that.”
Billingslea believes Buckner has the opportunity to play at the collegiate level, either at a junior college or small college.
“Who knows maybe higher than that,” Billingslea said of Buckner’s chances to go beyond small college. “I know he’s got some chances.”
Buckner is coming off a 17-point performance in a losing effort to Northside in Columbus last Friday.
During the first two games, which came in a tournament in Alabama, Buckner scored a combined 45 points, including a 25-point effort in the championship game against Valley.
During the 2011-12 season, he averaged 15 points a game and is off to a good start in surpassing that average so far.
“I just love the game, man. That’s all,” Buckner said. He also admits the roar of the crowd motivates him and his teammates.
After high school, Buckner hopes to attend college, perhaps play basketball and study engineering. He lives at home with his mother, two sisters and a younger brother.