With every jump shot or layup, rebound or assist, win or loss, Alex Buford gets a little closer to the end of his basketball career.
It’s coming eventually for the Poly Prep swingman – either March 27, the final day of the New York State Federation tournament, or sooner. By the way he’s playing, Buford plans to be in Albany in late March.
See, when his days at Poly Prep are over, so is his basketball career. Buford will play football at Lehigh University on scholarship.
“It fuels my fire a little more,” the soft-spoken and reserved 6-foot-3 senior said. “The last couple of years of my life, I realized I liked football more and it was something I wanted to continue to do. It also had to do with the looks I was getting.”
Buford started playing basketball at the age of 6, but didn’t get into tackle football until arriving at Poly Prep as a freshman. He excelled in both and often had to shoot between the two sports during the summer.
“I know I’m going to miss basketball a lot,” Buford said, “but football will keep me pretty busy.”
He’s putting everything he’s got into this basketball season. Thus far, he has no regrets. Buford is one of the reasons the Blue Devils are one win away from their first Ivy Prep League crown in three years and are the overwhelming favorite to claim the NYSAISAA crown and go to Albany for the New York State Federation Class B tournament.
Buford’s scoring has really increased of late. He had 22 points in a big 72-53 victory over Fieldston and notched 33 in Feb. 23’s 76-57 rout of Dalton. He sank six 3-pointers against Dalton and four versus Fieldston, an area of his game he’s really worked on. Yet Poly Prep coach Bill McNally is more impressed with Buford’s all-around versatility this winter, the strides he’s made on the defensive end, as a rebounder and distributor.
“Even though he’s scoring a lot, he’s also become much more of a complete player,” McNally said. “His attitude has been great, he’s really worked hard, he’s a great person and a reason we’re having such a good season is we have high quality kids and high quality people.”
That’s been clear to McNally for a while, ever since Buford lost his father, Darryll, whom he was very close with. Darryll Buford tragically died of a heart attack in November 2009. He’s on Buford’s mind often, especially before a big game.
“I’ve just seen a lot of growth in him the last couple of years,” McNally said. “When you have something like that happen, it makes you focus on what’s important even more.”
Buford said he’s only thought about the end of his basketball career a few times, when he has times on his hands, which is infrequent. He’d rather cherish the time he does have. Though when it ends, Buford would like it to be with hardware.
“I don’t know if it would make it easier, but I would love to go out as a state champion,” he said. “It would be a dream come true and hopefully that’s in our future.”