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Shooting guard’s versatility extends beyond the arc

Michael Traum

Aaron Buckman for threeee … yes.

It’s been a familiar sight for opposing teams this year when they’ve met the South Tahoe High boys basketball team. Buckman, a senior half-moon specialist, has been a serious scorer during the Vikings’ undefeated league season and stands as a potent weapon as the boys enter the U.S. Bank/NIAA Nevada 4A state tournament beginning Thursday in Reno.

Buckman’s emergence has left many observers wondering – what makes this top gun fire?

“I’ve surprised myself a lot. At first, I didn’t think I was going to come out and start. But I just started hitting everything I shot and that’s when I started getting so much confidence,” said Buckman, who averages about 12 points per game and has buried more than 50 treys.

Buckman moved to Lake Tahoe from San Diego after his kindergarten year. He never really stood out on the basketball court, resigned to the fact that he couldn’t play in-your-face defense and didn’t really have a move to the basket. He grabbed some pine almost continuously from eight grade through 11th grade.

But all that has changed. Starting during last summer’s basketball club games, when he began his barrage while the Vikes beat the defending Texas state champs, and culminating with a 26-point, five-trey explosion against Wooster on Jan. 16, Buckman has become a legitimate roundball weapon.

“Both coaches have helped me out a lot with shooting. I just let it come to me,” he said. “At first, I really don’t know if other teams (respected) my shot. But now, teams have started (isolating) me.”

In short, Buckman came into the season as an unknown, and enters the state tournament as a must-stop player.

“I don’t think Aaron is overlooked anymore. He’s one of the top scorers in the league and puts a lot of fear into coaches,” said Tahoe coach Tom Orlich. “We didn’t expect him to be as good as he is. He’s one of the keys why we have so many wins.”

Orlich said the senior’s success is based on the augmentation of his game. Not just a deep-ball threat, Buckman now can drive, pull-up, shoot under pressure and play quicker on defense.

But given the open shot, Buckman’s primary potency rests in dropping bombs from behind the arc.

“I’m not going to shoot if I don’t think it’s going in. But coach has pretty much given me the green light to shoot whenever I’m open and it’s a good shot. I enjoy taking every big shot. I like shooting under pressure,” he said.

But at the same time, he’s aware that a team can’t survive on moon shots alone.

“It opens up a lot of our post game. If I hit, they won’t double the inside as much and I can pass it inside more to get a lot more easy baskets,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure on us at state. If I’m off, it takes possessions away from the team.”

And Buckman knows that his ability to drain the three-ball is key to what the Vikings are hoping to accomplish.

“Most likely, I’ll keep shooting until I hit,” said Buckman, who admits to having a shooter’s mentality. “I usually won’t shoot if I’m struggling. I’ll try to get a couple layups or short shots and work my way out. I guess I’m a streak shooter.

“From the beginning we knew we were going to have a good team and we’re all a lot better than last year. Hopefully, we’ve got what it takes to win it all.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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