Listen to Jackson Thomas “Buddy” Boeheim speak, and he sounds very much like a coach, or a coach’s son, using phrases such as “evolution and growth” or bromides about how if you “think about that past game, then it’s going to bottle over into this game.”
Watch the kid known as “Buddy Buckets” play for his father Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse team, and he looks very much like someone described this way Saturday by West Virginia coach Bob Huggins: “He’s got to be, if not THE best, one of the best shooters in college basketball.”
The younger Boeheim will be coming off a 30-point game when he and the No. 11 seed Orange (17-9) play Sunday at Indianapolis in the second round of the Midwest Regional against Huggins’ No. 3 seed Mountaineers and their own guy who also already put up 30 this week, Miles McBride.
Buddy’s earliest NCAA Tournament recollection, albeit one he calls “a 2-second memory,” was celebrating in the family living room at age 3 1/2 with his twin sister and baby sitter while watching on TV as Dad’s team, led by Carmelo Anthony, won the 2003 championship.
“I just remember jumping up and down,” he said. “I didn’t really know what it meant, but I just knew that something good happened.”
As he got older and could tag along, Buddy said, “Being able to go to the tournament was the highlight of my year as a kid. Being able to miss school. … I have so many great memories of March Madness and all the runs we’ve gotten to make in the past. It’s amazing to be a part of all of those and being able to go each game and each different venue.”
Like his older brother, Jimmy, who went to Cornell to play basketball, Buddy entered the family business at an early age.
But Buddy, who eventually grew to be 6-foot-6, wasn’t sure whether he’d be good enough to play for his father. And Dad, in turn, says now: “I always had reservations about him playing at Syracuse.”
Whatever questions either harbored were shelved after an AAU tournament the summer after Buddy’s junior year of high school, when he impressed college coaches from around the country with his 3-point shooting ability.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams “was sitting right where he was taking the 3s from,” Jim Boeheim recalled, “and Roy said, ‘You better take that kid.’ He was right.”
Now 21 and a junior, Buddy leads Syracuse in scoring at 17.7 points per game and by hitting 39.1% of his shots from beyond the arc.
He upped that to 70% — 7 for 10 — in Friday’s tournament-opening 78-62 victory over No. 6 seed San Diego State.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” West Virginia’s Jalen Bridges said. “So you have to look past the ‘coach’s kid’ part, because he’s obviously more than that or he wouldn’t be scoring 30 in the NCAA Tournament.”
The Mountaineers (19-9) have their own basket-filling star in McBride, who averages 16 points, 4.8 assists and 40.6% on 3s. He had 18 after halftime Friday to help beat No. 14 seed Morehead State 84-67 for Huggins’ 900th coaching victory.
Only five Division I men’s basketball coaches have more; Boeheim — or “Bo” to Huggins — is among them. They’re pals, going back to even before their schools were Big East rivals (Syracuse is now in the ACC; West Virginia’s in the Big 12).
“We kid each other all the time,” the 76-year-old Boeheim said. “He kids me about being old, and I kid him about being big.”
Just how far back do they go? Huggins was a senior guard for West Virginia in November 1976, when it beat Syracuse 83-78 in Boeheim’s second game on the job.
“Every time I see him, I bring it up,” Huggins joked, wearing a white “WV” baseball hat on his head and, in all likelihood, a wide smile under his mask. “He doesn’t want to talk about it.”
He and Buddy know each other well, too.
Buddy recounted the time he was 9 and ran into a carrot-chomping Huggins in the Madison Square Garden locker room while Syracuse was in the midst of what became a six-overtime Big East Tournament victory over UConn in 2009.
“I was sweating. I was crying. I was a mess,” Buddy said. “Ever since then, I’ve really liked him. We beat (West Virginia) the next night in overtime, so that also helped.”
Huggins gave his take on Buddy during a video conference later Saturday.
“I remember when he was a little kid. I mean, a little, little kid,” Huggins said. “And I don’t think there was any doubt he was going to end up being a player. … I think he got it all from (Boeheim’s wife) Juli, though. I don’t think he got a bit of it from Bo.”
Yes, Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham is a budding superstar expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the next NBA draft.
No, he doesn’t need to be the player doing all of the scoring for No. 4 seed Oklahoma State to succeed, even if No. 12 seed Oregon State figures to be paying plenty of attention when they meet in the second round Sunday.
“He understands that he’s got to help his teammates get involved. He’s got to rebound. He’s got to defend. And I think that’s something that kind of goes unnoticed, because I think people just expect him to get 25, right? And I guess an ‘off night’ getting 15 — that was three good nights for me in college,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said, a day after Cunningham shot just 3 for 14 and scored 15 in a 69-60 victory over Liberty.
“He’s got so much credibility with his teammates, and so when there are those moments when he does take six or seven or eight shots in a row at the end of a game, like, no one is batting an eye or rolling their eyes or waving him off,” Boynton said. “Everybody’s just bought into the core lesson of how it all goes together. Cade is a great, great player. He’ll be an unbelievable player in the NBA. But we’ve got some other guys who are all doing this together with him.”
The winner of Oklahoma State vs. Oregon State will face whoever emerges from Sunday’s matchup between No. 1 seed Illinois and No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago — and its super-fan, Sister Jean — next week in the Elite Eight.
Jacob Young noticed immediately when the NCAA bracket came out that if he and No. 10 seed Rutgers could get past the first round of the Midwest Regional, next up would be No. 2 seed Houston.
That stood out not just because Young is from Houston and, as he put it, “Who wouldn’t want to beat, like, your hometown team?”
Then there was this: His father, Michael, was a part of Houston’s “Phi Slama Jama” teams that made the Final Four in 1982, 1983 and 1984 and is the third leading scorer in school history.
So, Jacob, who is Pops going to be cheering for Sunday?
“I’m pretty sure he is going to wear a Rutgers shirt first. I’m his blood and his son,” the younger Young said. “He is always going to have the ‘U of H’ live on for him. But it’s different when your son or someone you raised is playing against your alma mater. I know he is just hyped for it. He really wants us to win.”
AP Sports Writers Will Graves and Tom Canavan contributed.
More AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and updated bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket
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