When Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger recruited Buddy Hield to play for the Sooners he told him that he'd try to get some games in the Bahamas. He told him again and again during the recruiting process and it ultimately became a factor in Hield's decision to commit to OU.
On Wednesday Kruger made good on his promise at the Sooners tipped off against UCLA in the eight-team Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. It was the first time that Buddy (a Freeport native) had been back to play college basketball in the Bahamas and the first time that many of his family and friends had the opportunity to see him playing in crimson and cream.
Oklahoma was able to accommodate forty ticket requests for Buddy's friends and family. Some of them traveled as long as eight hours by boat to be there and they certainly weren't disappointed. Having only scored seven first half points, Hield took over the game's final twenty minutes to end with a game-high 24 points while also grabbing three boards and dishing out three assists.
Buddy left the Bahamas in 2010, his junior year of high school, to play ball at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas where he ultimately became a four-star recruit by Rivals.com. Drawing more than a dozen scholarship offers, Hield committed to Lon Kruger and Sooners as a part of the 2012 class.
After starting thirteen games as a freshman, Buddy started all thirty-three last season and entered the 2014-15 as the centerpiece of Kruger's guard heavy offense. Now the island native is back home and leading the Sooners to a ten point win over #22 UCLA.
For Oklahoma no Buddy would have equated to no win on Wednesday, but then again no Buddy could have easily meant no Bahamas trip for the team as well. With Oklahoma trailing the Bruins 57-49 just past the mid point of the second half, Hield scored ten unanswered points to give OU a 59-57 lead and ultimately empower the Sooners to a win.
"It's just special to come here and play in front of my family and friends," Hield said after the game. "A great team win. I had to do my job. My teammates did their job."
Taking on the name Buddy Love, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't love this kid. His coaches love him, his teammates love him, and students at OU love him. Follow him back to Sunrise Academy and you'll finding nothing but people that love him. Now that the Sooners are back in his homeland people are riding eight hours on a boat to see him play. That's the island life and that's Buddy, basketball, and the Bahamas.