NORMAN, Okla. – He has a lot of nicknames, ranging from “Buddy Buckets” to “New Kobe,” but either way, he is the name on everybody’s lips at the Final Four in Houston.
“Buddy is going to make plays for us. We are going to have open shots because of Buddy. We are going to get the ball in good places because of Buddy, so he will make plays for us,” said OU forward Ryan Spangler.
“I think that’s the most important thing. It’s just great to see him succeed, because I see him work hard and he’s ‘s earned everything that’s coming his way, so it’s just fun to watch,” said OU guard Jordan Woodard.
Buddy Hield was born in Jamaica and always dreamed of becoming a basketball star.
“I always wanted to go here. This was my dream to play basketball. You want to come to America for the competition. You don’t want to be in the Bahamas because there is no competition like you would face here,” he said.
He eventually moved to the United States to attend prep school before coming to the University of Oklahoma.
Head coach Lon Kruger says that although Hield is believed to be one of the best players in the country, he is constantly looking for ways to improve his game on the court.
“Been impressed from day one, his passion for the game, his ability to focus from a work ethic standpoint on things he needs to do to get better. That’s from his freshman, sophomore year. Every day he would ask me, ‘Coach, how can I get better? What do I need to work on?’ A lot of kids will say that, but then they’ll go work on the things they’re most comfortable doing. In Buddy’s case, you say, ‘Hey, Buddy, left hand needs to be improved, need to take it to the bucket stronger.’ Those are things he would work on. He was very focused on what he has to do to complete himself as a player,” Kruger said.
Throughout his career at OU, Hield has become a household name and is being credited, along with head coach Lon Kruger, with changing the culture of the team.
“Buddy plays at a special level. I couldn’t be more pleased for him, primarily because of the way he’s handled it. He’s passing around the praise, complimenting his teammates, coming with enthusiasm and passion every day. It’s great to see,” said Kruger.
Now, he is just two games away from reaching the pinnacle of college hoops, and the dream he always had as a child.
“When you’re a little kid you always dream about moments like these, and back home, the only time I got to watch college basketball was March. I would go home from school and watch these games any time I had, so to be a part of this now is great,” Hield said.
On Saturday, Villanova will attempt to stop “Buddy Buckets” and the Sooners from continuing on to the championship.
But, it’s not going to be easy.
“I think the guys recognize Buddy is at the core of everything we do. Buddy’s going to get that target on his back. I think the other guys, number one, they recognize what Buddy has done as being very special and they’re comfortable with that. They also recognize, too, when defenses make it tough on Buddy, they’ve got to be able to step up and take advantage of additional opportunities,” Kruger said.