After guiding the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team to the Sweet 16 a season ago, Buddy Boeheim made waves and earned the moniker ‘Buddy Buckets’ as he and Jim Boeheim became a national story as a father-son duo.
In the process, the younger Boeheim generated NBA interest, somewhat to his surprise. Jumping to the league after his junior year wasn’t something he had previously considered. But after Syracuse’s loss to Houston in the Sweet 16, he shot down any speculation of leaving his father’s program early.
“I’ll be back,” He said definitively. “I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
In the time since, Boeheim worked on becoming a better overall athlete by developing his speed and quickness, an area that needed improvement that he thinks is the most noticeable difference from a season ago. He stayed in the Carmelo K. Anthony center all summer. He worked on his handle to get better off the dribble when defenders crowd him.
He also continued to develop his strengths, namely his jumpshot. He worked on his mid-range pull-up and took more shots from range. He wants to get to the free throw line more this year (he’s 7-7 through two games). And he wants to lead, not only through execution and example, but also by being more vocal for his Syracuse basketball team.
“I’m pressing myself every day to be more vocal, be a leader out there,” Buddy said. “That’s something that’s going to come as time goes but just starting in practice being vocal.”
Boeheim led his team throughout post-season play last year, but he wants to lead from the start this year. Last season he got off to an up and down start, mainly due to contact tracing which caused him to miss 10-days in the early going. Shortly thereafter, he and Joe Girard suffered a bout with Covid-19 that caused the team to miss games.
Given the obvious lineage and considering he’s spent his life around the program, teammates are looking to Buddy for answers. He’s earned his stripes as a player in three years at Syracuse and has more experience than anyone on the roster.
“He’s the guy who’s proven himself the most. He carried us a lot in the tournament last year in March. He’s got a voice and he’s been around this program more than anybody else on this team has,” Girard said.
“This is his fourth year at Syracuse and this is my first,” Jimmy Boeheim added. “(I’m) just kind of like learning from him now. It’s cool in that way. I’m not too proud or anything to do that.”
Villanova transfer Cole Swider thinks there are multiple leaders on the team as opposed to just one, but he suggests Buddy is already being vocal.
“He puts the work in every single day. He’s a super nice guy. Everyone loves being around him. Everyone follows his lead,” Swider said. “He does a great job speaking his opinion, speaking his voice.
Boeheim acknowledges his teammates’ assertions. He wants to win. He always has and he’s willing to do what it takes.
“As a senior, building off the year I had last year, coming in with that experience, I think guys know I have the experience and knowledge on what it takes. I definitely take a lot fo pride in that and want to help this team in any way possible,” Buddy says.
Coming into the preseason, the youngest Boeheim brother garnered attention and accolades. He was named to the preseason All-ACC First Team, he’s been named to the Wooden Watch List and he’s a candidate for the Jerry West Award as well. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Boeheim could become a second round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He’s put the work in and at 6-foot-6 he has the height to go along with the NBA’s most sough after skill: shooting.
“That’s why he’s in the position he’s in,” Former Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf says. “That’s why he’s getting all these preseason accolades. Deservingly so. He’s worked his butt off and put himself in a position to hopefully after this year have a spot in the NBA.”
Boeheim has spent a considerable amount of time working out with former Syracuse stars Devendorf and Gerry McNamara over the years. Although the two didn’t work out as much as they did the previous year, Boeheim went back to the well of Devendorf over the summer.
“He’s the best in the business,” Buddy said. “Just working with him these last eight, nine years it’s been pretty special for me always having a big brother like that always there for me. Him and G-Mac have been two of my closest guys these last seven or eight years.”
Devendorf works with Boeheim to develop all aspects of his game, but he particularly helps Boeheim work on getting to the rim and finishing. They also focus on his mid-range game and working on his step-back. For the next wrinkle in Boeheim’s development, who better to learn to be vocal from than Devendorf?
“That’s the next step for him just being a little bit more vocal. Last year you could see it at times, he was talking out there, he was being vocal and getting after it. That’s a testament to his hard work, his confidence,” Devendorf said.
The hard work has encouraged his skill development and on-court success. Now comes the leadership component.
“I think it comes with confidence, just to be able to be vocal and talk to your teammates. Obviously you gotta show it with your play. He’s been doing that and I think as he continues to do that his confidence has risen more and more. With that comes the leadership qualities. Now he knows he can talk to guys and they’re gonna listen to him because he’s doing it out on the court. All that hard work is coming together and bringing him confidence,” Devendorf said.
Now Boeheim will have a chance to lead this team in what will be a special season for the Boeheims. Although Buddy could exercise an additional year if he wanted, he’s made it known this will be his final year in college. Buddy and Jimmy have teamed up for one last year at Syracuse.
“It’s priceless. I get goosebumps thinking about it really,” Buddy began. “Growing up as kids, Syracuse basketball was our lives. Going to games ever since I was 3, 4 years old. I can remember watching every game crying after games with them. Now we’re on the court together. I mean If you told me this as a kid growing up I would’ve been like, as a walk-on? To see how much he’s [Jimmy] grown, I’m really proud of him and to share the court with him will be memories we’ll share for the rest of our lives.”
In his four-year process at Syracuse, Boeheim has become one of the most likable college basketball players in the country. He’s capitalized in the form of NIL and executed deals mostly with local ties or Syracuse University influences. Be it through the story of father and son teaming up or his rise as a basketball player from an afterthought as a recruit to All-ACC selection, Buddy has the attention and now he’s ready to lead his team.
“It’s awesome to see a kid who no one thought he’d even be playing division one basketball, to now in his senior year he’s a preseason All-American, preseason All-ACC,” Devendorf suggested.
Always affable and quick to flash a smile on the court and in the locker room, Buddy beams in a similar way to how Carmelo Anthony once did at Syracuse. Of course, there’s only one Carmelo, but for now there’s a lot to smile about.
“He’s a good kid,” Devendorf said. “I guess I’d be smiling and laughing too. Ain’t got too much to worry about right now if I’m Buddy Boeheim.”