Orange Watch: The evolution of ‘Buddy Buckets,’ a Syracuse basketball family tale

Buddy Boeheim Duke
Feb. 1, 2020; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Buddy Boeheim speaks with reporters following a 97-88 loss to the Duke Blue Devils. Mandatory Credit: Brad Bierman, The Juice Online.

Item: Like father, like son. Two Syracuse basketball guards wearing uniform Number 35 in the NCAA Tournament some 55 years apart. The story will continue Friday night when the No. 11 seed Orange open the 2021 NCAA Tournament against six-seed San Diego State at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (9:40 p.m. ET/CBS). As in the 1986 screen classic “Hoosiers” partially filmed in that same gymnasium, that’s where a red-hot Buddy Boeheim will be ready to take aim at swishing the ball through the net under the watchful eye of his father Jim, about to coach his 90th NCAA game.

His name is Jackson Thomas Boeheim. It’s not even Jack for short, because he’s always been known to Syracuse basketball fans and everyone else for that matter as Buddy.

With the way the junior sharpshooter has been successfully aiming the ball the first four games of March in wins over North Carolina, Clemson and N.C. State, and during an at-the-buzzer dagger loss to Virginia, averaging a nice round 25.25 points per contest, we’ll refer to him as ‘Buddy Buckets.’

Believe it or not, Buddy has yet to make a field goal in an NCAA game. Then again, he’s only had one 39 minute appearance in the first round loss to Baylor in 2019, going 0-for-6 from the field missing all four of his 3-pointers, only hitting a pair of free throws as the Orange were bounced 78-69 by the Bears.

That doesn’t figure to happen Friday against San Diego State, although the Aztecs will be watching him like a hawk wherever he traverses on the offensive end. It will be up to his teammates passing the ball with crisp movement, getting him in open position to square up and do what he does best, shoot with confidence.

It’s no coincidence that Buddy has been adding up buckets during this late season surge. It’s part of a makeover that as the total number of games played increased, the team’s overall performance improved significantly.

“There were probably three or four times throughout the season where we were like, ‘we got punched in the mouth, honestly,’ Virginia, Clemson (road games), Pittsburgh home and away,” Buddy said this week analyzing both the team’s turnaround and his scoring average rocketing into the mid 20’s per game.

“I’m proud of these guys and the coaches. They believed in us, they brought energy and said keep working hard, just go out there and play, and see what happens.”

Growing up as the son of Syracuse’s Hall of Fame coach, Buddy had the unique opportunity to see NCAA success up close and personal, even before he suited up for his father.

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“Definitely the one (the Final Four run) in 2016 because I was older, I was closer to the team,” Buddy said when asked about the memories of watching the Orange in postseason games.

“Some of those comebacks were unbelievable, Virginia, Gonzaga. I still talk to those guys today. It’s just crazy how it comes full circle and they’re texting me after games saying they’re watching me play. It’s crazy because I never dreamed of it, those guys were my heroes as a kid.”

Now beginning Friday night, it will be ‘Buddy Buckets’ having the opportunity to leave the players that came before him, and the one’s that have yet to suit up in orange, in awe as he hopes to lead the team to similar success in this year’s bubble-like atmosphere in Indianapolis.

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About Brad Bierman 769 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.