By RENALDO DORSETT
IT IS set to be a special year for junior guard Buddy Hield as he seeks to lead the Oklahoma Sooners back to the NCAA tournament.
Before Hield sets his sights on postseason play, one of the highlights for the Grand Bahama native will be the opportunity to play before the Bahamian home crowd at the Battle 4 Atlantis over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Speaking during Sooners media day, Hield said it will be a special moment for his friends and family.
“It’s a special feeling. We have never been together where everybody has been able to watch me and cheer me on. Hopefully the guys and I will be ready to play hard for a large crowd,” he said. “We are going to handle our business and try to win the tournament,” said Hield. “I feel like we have a good chance to go and compete for the title.”
The eight-team Battle 4 Atlantis field will also feature the North Carolina Tar Heels, Georgetown Hoyas, UCLA Bruins, Florida Gators, Wisconsin Badgers, UAB Blazers and Butler Bulldogs.
The tournament tips off on Wednesday (November 26) when the Tar Heels are slated to face the Bulldogs at noon.
The second game of the tournament should be of particular note to the Bahamian public as it will feature a matchup of Bahamian players competing for their respective universities in the B4A for the first time.
Hield and the Sooners are scheduled to face Wannah Bail and the UCLA Bruins at 2pm.
During media day, Hield also projected his productivity once again, like they did from his freshman to sophomore season.
“I am a better attacker, better shooter, more efficient. People use the word ‘efficient.’ I’m just trying to stay efficient on the basketball court and create plays for my teammates. This summer was a good summer for me because of everything I learned from the pros and the other college guys, just competing and helping develop my game,” he said.
In the 2013/14 campaign, Hield was recognised among the best players in his conference, the Big 12. He was named to the All-Big 12 second team and increased his scoring average by nine points per game from his sophomore year. He also saw his field goal percentage rise from 38 per cent to 45 per cent and his three-point shooting increase from 23 per cent to 40 per cent.
Hield finished the regular season ranked No.9 in the Big 12 in scoring at 16.8 points per game, second in steals at 1.5 per game, third in three-point field goals made at 2.8 per game and fourth in three-point percentage.
His Sooner teammates, like forward Ryan Spangler, have taken note of his offseason improvements.
“Take Buddy, for instance,” Spangler said. “You wouldn’t think he could improve that much from last year, but he got so much better over the summer.”
Hield has been projected as a late first round pick for the 2015 Mock Draft by reputed NBA draft website www.nbadraft.net.
Just before the NCAA season kicks off, Hield, the indisputable leader of the Sooners, is listed as the possible 23rd pick just outside of the lottery.
If he is selected in that region, the Grand Bahamian native would be the first Bahamian-born player taken in the first round of the NBA Draft since Mychal Thompson in 1978.