Buddy Buckets: Son of Legendary Coach is Central New York's Best High School Hooper

Staff Writer

Scottie B.T. O'Bryan

Junior Buddy Boeheim of Jamesville-DeWitt High School has lived in the shadows of others’ spotlights his entire life. Buddy has grown up with a celebrity as his father, Syracuse University’s legendary Men’s Basketball coach Jim Boeheim. Last year, Buddy played a backup role to his older brother, Jimmy Boeheim, who in his senior season led the 2016 Red Rams Boys Varsity Basketball team. But, this basketball season was a breakout year for Buddy. The athletic 6-foot-5 inch guard took over the star role and shined on the court as he led the Red Rams all the way to the New York state semifinals. On top of that, through his success this season, Buddy earned the huge honor of All Central-New York large schools Player of the Year. Buddy Boeheim opened a lot of people's eyes this season and has finally made a name for himself. 

Buddy finished the 2017 season averaging 26.3 points (2.0 three-point shots made per game and 6.6 free throws made), 9.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks.

He is 8 points away from another huge spectacle; 1,000 career points.

Buddy’s performance throughout this season brought back success that the Red Rams have not seen for years. With the spotlight on him this season, Buddy and the rest of the team created excitement which surged throughout the school and the community. “The last couple of years, J-D basketball hasn’t been what it used to be 5 years ago, or so, so that attention and atmosphere was something that I wanted to bring back to the school and to the community,” says Buddy.  

This season, with Buddy at the forefront as a team captain and team leader in scoring and rebounds, the Red Rams basketball team finished 21-4. In the preseason, before all of the accolades the boys earned, there was not a lot of faith in the team. “No one at all other than ourselves had high expectations for us coming into the season,” says Buddy. Being overlooked from the majority of people did not sit right with the team and it “pushed everyone to go harder in practice,” Buddy says, since they “wanted to prove all the haters wrong.”  And that is exactly what they did, winning both the sectional and regional championships, and making it all the way until the state semi-finals before losing to Irondequoit High School, who went on to win the Class A state championship. Not only did they shock the CNY area with their amazing season, Buddy himself was also surprised, saying that he knew the team had “a lot of potential,” but the fact that they got all the way to the state Final four was “unimaginable.”  “Honestly, my goal was getting a sectional championship, and together as a team we even surpassed my goal,” says Buddy, “Getting to the state Final Four was something I never imagined and it was an amazing experience.”

In fact, J-D has not reached that far in the playoffs since 2012, with a roster of three players who went on to play for a Division-I college basketball team. The most notable of the bunch was McDonald's All-American Dajuan Coleman, who was an ESPN ranked, top prospect in the country and went on to play collegiate ball in his backyard for Buddy’s father at SU.  The talent Buddy has shown this season has brought back basketball talk to the community which has not been discussed of since Coleman’s reign as a Red Ram during the J-D basketball Championship Era. Buddy is now being compared to players like Coleman, who are the greatest basketball players to have worn a Red Rams jersey. “It’s an unbelievable thing to think about, Dajuan was an All-American. To do something that those guys did and to be in that category of greatness is something that I’ll take pride in forever,” says Buddy.

The team chemistry was the x factor for the Red Rams who powered through Section III this season. “Our chemistry was really good, we played together as a team and no matter who was scoring the points, we were all happy as long as we were winning since that’s all that mattered. That was definitely the difference this year,” says Buddy. However, despite the amazing playoffs run, Buddy is not at all happy with losing to Irondequoit. He wants more: a state championship. “I really wish we could’ve came out on top in the state championship because you always want to do more and that’s definitely something that I’ve always wanted,” says Buddy. “But, what we did this has set the bar high for the future and we just gotta stay hungry and get better for next season in order to accomplish that goal.”

Buddy’s teammates had nothing but good things to say about their team captain. Juniors Taku LaClair and Luke Smith have been Buddy’s teammates since they all got moved up together for the J-D JV Basketball team as eighth graders in middle school, and they all played together even before that on travel teams and AAU. LaClair says that Buddy is a player with one of the best basketball I.Q.s that he has ever seen. “He knows how to run the floor and how to find the open shot...his court vision ability really gives him an edge,” says LaClair. Smith believes that Buddy is a very hard working individual. “He’s a great teammate. He’s hard working. He always puts in the time and effort. He’s passionate about the game of basketball,” says Smith. “Whenever we needed a bucket, we could count on him,” says LaClair.

Buddy had many phenomenal moments during his momentous season. For instance, in the regional championship game, Buddy came in clutch for J-D and dropped an insane 40-points against Lansingburgh, sniping threes from all over downtown. His exceptional performance led the team to the opportunity in the states tournament. “I do whatever it takes to win,” says Buddy, “I get my teammates involved as much as I can...I just keep playing as hard as I can, no matter what.”

The team’s outstanding success and Buddy’s insane statistics led to an outstanding accomplishment for the Red Rams baller: CNY’s large school Player of the Year. The award was voted on by the sports reporters and coaches around the area and is given to one athlete who is believed to be the MVP of the basketball season. It is a well-deserved achievement for the talented junior. “Being awarded Player of the Year proves how hard work pays off,” says Buddy, “I’m very thankful to have received it, it’s a huge honor.”

Buddy was named to the second-team for all-state selections, placing higher than any other Section III basketball player. Senior teammate Matt Carlin was named to the the ninth-team all-state. 

Buddy was also named to the All-CNY first team. He joins the first team with an elite group of the most recruited current basketball talent in the state including Bishop Ludden junior Mika Adams-Woods, New Hartford junior Frankie Policelli, Liverpool junior Charles Pride and Syracuse Academy of Science sophomore Symir Torrence among others. Buddy was not the only person sporting red and white in the picture of the first team as J-D’s head basketball coach, Jeff Ike, was named the CNY Coach of the Year for large schools.

So how did Buddy transform from an efficient behind-the-scenes, role player to one of the most lethal high school shooters in J-D history and in the talk of the top tier of players in all of New York state? “I practice every day,” says Buddy. Practice consists of shooting before school in the early morning, and after school into the late night, taking anywhere from 400-500 shots everyday (that is between practices for his school team, travel team, and other individual training workouts that he has scheduled daily). “I work on taking game shots so when I get the chance in an actual game it goes in,” says Buddy. Game shots include shots off the dribble, catch and shoots, fadeaways and a lot of contested shooting with a defender in his face. The translation from practice to game time is evident: what he is doing works...very well. Buddy’s vicious determination to be successful this season was something that was clearly visible in his work throughout the offseason. “During the offseason, I worked non-stop on ball handling, dribble moves, shooting, and really just improving my overall game,” says Buddy. He also spent a lot of time in the weight room to get stronger and faster. “Time in the weight room has made my body stronger than ever before,” says Buddy. Clearly, his addiction to winning is paying off. Naturally over the last couple of years, puberty has been on his side and he has grown taller and more athletic.  Buddy is a very tall guard who has learned to use his size to his advantage. His height leaves him towering over the average high school guards that he faces and also allows him to match up with the opposing, larger players. “The secret to my success is a lot of hard work,” says Buddy,  “Not many people realize the amount of time I put into basketball and how much I want to be better. Every aspect in every category has just progressed for me with a lot of practice.”

So, when Buddy is out on the court putting up 20, 30, even 40 points, what exactly is going on inside his mind? “I just forget about everything that can distract me and focus on improving myself and my game,” says Buddy. Instinct takes over for him on the court, the ability that you see when the ball is in his hands is not the product of deep thought before action, but instead refined muscle memory skills which have become second nature for J-D’s star baller. Buddy is willing to risk anything while playing in order to help his team and plays to do one thing: win. Period. “I do what I need to do on the court,” says Buddy.

So where was this talented phenom’s love for basketball born? In the same place he was born and bred, Syracuse, NY. More specifically, in the Syracuse Dome where his dad has coached Syracuse Men’s Basketball since 1976. Jim Boeheim’s 39 years at head coach for the Orange has not only made him a local legend, but a respected name within the world of sports who is among the greatest professional basketball coaches of all time. Buddy fondly remembers his very first trips to the Dome to watch his dad’s teams play. “I was around 4 or 5 when I first started going to SU games, says Buddy, “I always loved going (to the basketball games). Seeing my dad out there coaching these insanely talented players on the court was really fun to watch. And seeing how much the crowd got into the games and how the whole atmosphere was electric...it made me fall in love with the game of basketball,” says Buddy.

Coach Boeheim has also been the USA Basketball Team assistant coach since 2006. Buddy and his family have gone to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympics to  support his father and Team USA. “Going to the Olympics with my family are some of my favorite memories...each experience has been surreal,” says Buddy.

Having a world renowned basketball coach as a father has given Buddy an interesting perspective on life. “It is still weird to me that people come up to my dad in public and take pictures and ask for his signature,” Buddy says with a laugh, “Like I see him as my dad like everyone else sees their dad. But, other people really look up to him...I forget he’s famous.” Being the son of Jim Boeheim has given Buddy different types of attention too. “People associate my last name with basketball, so when people know my name and learn that I play (basketball), they expect to see a high level of basketball,” says Buddy, who says he loves having that kind of pressure on him. Being born with the status of having a famous last name also works in a more negative way for the young Boeheim. “Some people expect me to be kind of stuck up and think of me as being all of these bad things before they even ever meet me,” says Buddy. “In reality, I’m not any of that at all...they don’t ever realize the person I actually am.” The last name on his jersey also literally puts a huge target on his back. Buddy is accustomed to receiving a lot of trash talk from opposing teams and fans. “When I was younger it definitely affected me and got to my head, but, over the years, I’ve learned that it’s going to come and I have to play my best under any circumstance,” says Buddy.

Growing up, Buddy had a childhood that he describes of being “like any normal kid” for the most part. His family consists of his father, mother and two other siblings, Jimmy as previously mentioned and then his twin sister Jamie. Jimmy will be playing basketball at Cornell next year as he spent this year at a prep school. Jamie is a star player on the J-D Varsity Girls’ Basketball team who has been to the state championship the last three years and won the last two. Competitiveness must be in the Boeheim blood, because Buddy talks of sibling rivalry starting from a very early age. “There was a lot of competitiveness and playing sports early on,” says Buddy. Other than that, Buddy describes his childhood consisting of “family time, going on vacations, traveling for the Olympics, and cool stuff like that.” He says that having a twin has both its “good moments and bad moments.” “There’s sometimes a lot of fighting, but we can help each other out in a lot of different ways and have the same thoughts which is really cool,” says Buddy. He says that he is “blessed” to have the parents he does. “My mom is the best. Seeing how she handles my brother, my sister, and I and how she handles everything in such a nice manner. She’s friendly to everyone and I want to be a caring person like she is. I love my mom, she’s taught me so much about life, and I’m thankful for that,” says Buddy.

Despite the good and bad that comes with having ‘Boeheim’ as a last name, the experiences and lessons that have Buddy has learned through his father are something that he will forever be grateful for. “Watching what my dad does every day and his pride in the game has rubbed off on me. How he loves the game so much is the reason I love the game,” says Buddy. When the rest of the world sees a famous coach that is broadcasted nationally on television's, breaking news on the headlines of papers, and has coached some of the best basketball players who have ever graced the game, Buddy sees his loving father. “I’m very thankful for everything, having him as a father is amazing, I’m truly very lucky. I’ve learned not to take anything that he has given me for granted. He’s blessed me with many opportunities that I’m very fortunate to have had,” says Buddy, “I take great pride in being a Boeheim.”

When he is not sinking deep threes in defenders’ faces, Buddy enjoys hanging out with friends and playing video games. FIFA and NBA2k are some of his favorite games. “Outside of basketball,” Buddy says, “I focus on family, getting a good education in school, and having a strong relationship with my friends.” Juniors Ryan Evans, Nico Modesti, Spencer Schultz, and previously mentioned teammate Smith have been friends with Buddy (who they call Jack) since early childhood. “He has always been a very kind person,” says Modesti. “Jack is definitely one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” says Evans, “He always makes everyone laugh.” Schultz who agrees with Evans that Buddy is one of the “funniest people that he knows” says that “Jack is truly a very kind and considerate person.” His friends shared a secret love that their good friend has: Spongebob. “He has a true passion for Spongebob,” says Modesti. “I love Spongebob, it’s always been my favorite TV show,” says Buddy laughing. If you step in his bedroom, it is almost like stepping into that pineapple under the sea, there is Spongebob memorabilia everywhere. In big games, Buddy rocks his favorite pair of Spongebob socks. “Off the court, Buddy is as great a friend as he is a teammate,” says Smith. Schultz also says that you can not mention Buddy without mentioning basketball too. “His devotion to basketball is in everything that he does in life,” says Schultz, “Whether it’s missing out on partying and junior prom to play in a basketball tournament or waking up at 5 AM to workout...his hard work ethic makes him a very dedicated person.” That is right ㅡ Buddy missed prom for basketball. He knows his priorities, that is true dedication.

Now, Buddy has caught the attention of college coaches around the country. He has received offers from Eastern Michigan and the University of Binghamton to name a few, and is in contact with other college programs. Every tournament that he plays in grabs the attention of even more recruiters. Throughout the summer, Buddy will travel with his team, the City Rocks, who attend Nike sponsored EYBL circuits, arguably the best high school basketball exposure tournaments in the country. His team includes the best of the best basketball talent in the Empire State, such as legendary rapper Jay-Z’s nephew Nahziah Carter. HOV’s nephew is ranked #2 for shooting guards in NY. The City Rocks play games against teams with players of high D-1 caliber, like Marvin Begley III who is ranked as the best basketball player in the country for the 2018 graduating class. That is right - the same athletic high school freaks of nature you see dunking and their flashy plays in trending videos all over YouTube, social media and ESPN is who Buddy will match up against on the hardwood this summer, the most recruited players in the country. Buddy dropped 23 points in the game against Begley, surprising all of the scouts in the gym with his shooting ability and pure mechanics. “I am extremely grateful for any college offer that I receive,” says Buddy, “it makes me want to get more offers and to continue to raise the bar for myself everytime I step on the court, which is what I will be doing at every tournament this summer.”

Buddy has a life motto that he abides to everyday: To be a great person and to always inspire others. He hopes that he will be able to positively impact many people's’ lives in the future in whatever he is doing. “In order to do what I want to do in the future, I just got to keep working hard and try to remain humble,” says Buddy “I got to make sure that I’m getting better every day and that’s the most important thing.”

Speaking of the future, Buddy and his family are juggling the idea of Buddy attending his senior year at a prep school instead of at J-DHS. His brother, Jimmy, had a very good experience at prep school which he attended after graduating from J-DHS. Prep schools offer extensive education and training with an extremely talented coaching staff and team. Even factors like nutrition are a major focus. Prep schools are becoming increasingly more popular destinations for the most elite athletes around the country like Buddy. Whatever decision he makes, his family, friends and the J-D community will fully support him and wish him the best of luck in his pursuit of greatness.

There is one word that can be used up to sum up Buddy’s basketball season this year: dominating. “This season, I thought I did really well overall. I think that I opened a lot of people’s eyes and showed that I can play at any stage, and a lot of that has to do with my teammates helping me...I couldn’t of done it without them,” says Buddy. The awards and attention have continued to rain in for Buddy after an extraordinary 2016-17 season. The future is full of potential for the Syracuse bred baller and the fun-loving kid, but it will most likely involve basketball in some way, shape, or form. “I definitely want to have basketball in my life,” says Buddy. “I want to play basketball for however long I possibly can and maybe even coach it in the future. That’s the career path I want to take.”