A friend turned me on to Bahamas born OU basketball player Buddy Hield and his unlikely story of humility and commitment. “I read this and thought of you,” he said. Buddy, whose recent performance against Kansas State led Oklahoma to their first Final Four since 2002, spent countless hours practising in Freeport, Bahamas on a homemade crate and plywood ‘hoop’ (below).
Neighbors taunted and reviled him, spreading shards of glass across the makeshift court to assuade his constant playing. Soon, Buddy – who has garnered the adoration of Kobe Bryant – will be on to the NBA and if all goes well a long, lucrative professional career doing what he loves. He is an inspiration not only to sports fans but anyone in the process of pursuing their dreams. Following is an extract of an article about Buddy Hield taken from the Bleacher Report
Mark Jason Welch
….There is indeed something different about Hield, something that sets him apart from the other All-Americans who have funneled through college basketball the past few seasons, something that’s caused the nation to fall in love with the kid from the Bahamas who is known as much for his smile as his stroke.
“Whether you’re talking to him in person or watching him on the court, he’s just got a knack for making people feel better about themselves,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said earlier this season. “Life is a lot better when Buddy is around.”
The Final Four will be better, too.
The timing couldn’t be more ideal for a sport that has taken some publicity hits in recent years for its rash of one-and-done players, cheating scandals and sloppy play. As good of an ambassador as he’s been for Oklahoma, Hield could now do the same for the entire NCAA.
“He walks into a room, and people just gravitate toward him,” said Hield’s mother, Jackie Swann. “It’s the spirit of the Lord that’s upon him. He loves people. I always told him, ‘Be honest with people. Treat them well, and they will treat you right.’”
Watching from the Honda Center court as Buddy stood atop a ladder and took celebratory snips of the net, Jackie wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke about her son’s unlikely journey.
It all began in Eight Mile Rock, a low-income community near Freeport in the Bahamas. Hield—who lived with his grandmother and, for a period, shared a queen-sized bed with his mother and six siblings—spent hours upon hours in the streets shooting hoops, often into a milk crate he’d hammered to a light pole.
One neighbor became so irritated with the ruckus caused by Hield’s late-night dribbling that he spread shards of glass across Hield’s makeshift court, forcing him to find a new place to practice.
Other times, as he got older, Hield would tiptoe out of his home after midnight and walk toward a local park to play pickup ball with friends until he heard the squeals of Jackie’s green minivan as it rounded the corner. At that point Hield knew to either hide—or run home.
Friends laughed at Hield when, as an 11-year-old, he vowed he’d become an NBA basketball player. A jokester with a goofy smile and a reputation for playing pranks, Hield said folks never took him seriously.
“They thought I was an entertainer,” Hield said. “Not an athlete.”
It also didn’t help that the Bahamas had virtually no basketball tradition. Only two players with Bahamian roots (Mychal Thompson and Rick Fox) have enjoyed significant careers in the NBA. Hield, though, was determined to alter the trend.
Hield’s big break came when he was discovered at a summer showcase in the Bahamas before his junior year by a coach at Sunrise Christian Academy, a prep school in Wichita, Kansas. Within months, Hield had packed his bag and moved overseas. As a junior, he was once so upset with his play in a high school road game that he slept on the hotel room floor because he didn’t feel he was worthy of a bed.
When he arrived at Oklahoma, assistant coaches had to lock up the ball rack on game days because Hield was wearing himself out with intense shooting sessions hours before tipoff.
As a freshman, Hield told Kruger his goal was to win a national championship in his inaugural season.
“He was like, ‘Buddy, calm down, let’s just worry about making the NCAA tournament first,’” Hield said. “We made it, so the next year I said the same thing and he said, ‘Let’s try to get to the Sweet 16.’”
Now, finally, Hield and the Sooners are in the Final Four—two wins away from his goal. Oklahoma has never won a national title and hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2002. The program had missed the NCAA tournament three straight seasons before Hield arrived in 2012-13.
You can bet Hield’s fans back home were relishing the moment, too. Hield’s success has made him one of the most recognizable figures in the Bahamas. Two years ago, when the Sooners played in a tournament at the Atlantis resort, he could hardly walk through the lobby because he was so bombarded by natives—many of them hotel employees—who wanted autographs and pictures.
Hield puts on free clinics when he returns to the Bahamas in the summer. And multiple times each season, he sends laundry bags full of the free shoes and athletic gear he receives as a college athlete to people in his hometown who can’t afford extra clothes.
“Knowing they were watching me tonight … I’m glad they got to see it,” Hield said. “This doesn’t happen very often in the Bahamas. I’m happy they get to watch another weekend of basketball.”
Bryant is happy, too, although his schedule as an NBA player will keep him from making the trip to Houston to see Oklahoma take on Villanova in next weekend’s national semifinal.
Bryant didn’t get to wish Hield well before leaving the Honda Center on Saturday, but that didn’t stop him from sending a message to college basketball’s biggest—and most likable—star.
“Go get ‘em,” Bryant said. “Go get ‘em. You’ve taken your team this far, now it’s time to finish the job. It’s time to bring it home.”
[Article Extract from The Bleacher Report: Kobe ‘Blown Away’ by Buddy Hield as Sharpshooter carries OU to Final Four]. Click here to read the full article by Jason King.
Jason King covers college sports for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.