By Chris Chaney
New Richmond standout center Josie Buckingham made her long-awaited decision to continue her basketball and academic career at the University of Minnesota official on Nov. 13, signing her National Letter of Intent on the first day of the early signing period.
“We’re very excited to have Josie come into our program,” Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Pam Borton said. “She is a player that has very, very high goals academically and basketball-wise. Josie is a typical Big Ten basketball player and her height at 6-5 is going to bring us added size.”
Buckingham gave her verbal commitment to Coach Borton on Jan. 2 of this year and has never wavered from her decision.
“The first time that I was up there, I totally fell in love with it,” Buckingham said. “The coaches, the players and the school as a whole are a perfect fit for me in every way possible. I get along with everyone really well and their academics fit really well with me.”
While Buckingham expects to make an immediate impact on the court for the Gopher women, she’s going to have her work cut out for her both on the floor and off as she plans to major in pre-med.
“I’ll leave in the middle of June to help ease some of the workload during the season,” she said. “I’ve talked to a few girls who have done (pre-med and played) in the past and they said for as hard as it is, it pays off in the long run. I think I’ll be able to do it, I can stay pretty focused and I’m motivated to do it.”
Buckingham has shown her prowess in the classroom throughout her time at New Richmond, keeping a grade point average above 4.0 while also rewriting some record books on the court for the Lady Lions.
“Josie is simply the most dominant player in our league,” head coach Brad Hatfield said. “I can’t put into words how proud of her I am. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work paying off.”
During her junior season, Buckingham averaged 20.9 points per game, 13.6 rebounds and 6.1 blocks while leading her team to a 17-8 record and a sectional final appearance.
She also set three school records last season for points in a single game (42), rebounds (26) and blocks (17).
Buckingham has been a three-year selection to the Southern Buckeye Conference’s First Team, a two-time All-District selection and a 2013 All-State Honorable Mention.
With the stress of recruiting and picking a college behind her, Buckingham has her entire senior season to concentrate on the Lady Lions.
She said that the coaches at Minnesota didn’t give her any special instructions or points of emphasis to work on this season, just to enjoy her senior year. Buckingham recently switched AAU teams, playing for the Cincinnati Angels this past season saying she “had never learned so much in such a short amount of time before.”
The 6-foot-5 Buckingham said the biggest adjustment she anticipates at the next level will be facing players more her size as the competition ratchets up in the Big Ten. Whereas she is used to double- and triple-teams in high school, she expects to work more in a one-on-one capacity for the Golden Gophers.
Looking ahead to her last season in red and black, Hatfield has some high expectations for Josie individually and for the team as a whole.
“This year, it’s win the league or bust,” he said. “District championship or bust. We’ve worked at this for a long time and this is the culmination of a lot of hard work. We have very high expectations.”
Buckingham and the Lady Lions begin their 2013-14 campaign on Nov. 23 at Madeira at 1:30 p.m.