Basketball Behind Him, Buckman Looks for New Challenges
By Taylor Smith
For Reporting Texas
Brad Buckman played basketball until he didn’t want to anymore.
The 31-year-old former Texas Longhorn was fortunate. He got to retire on his own terms, after a four-year college career that included a Final Four, a stint with the NBA Development League and seven seasons of international basketball in Europe. He left the game because he, and no one else, knew it was time.
“My heart wasn’t in it 100 percent,” Buckman said after retiring last fall and returning to West Lake Hills, his childhood home. “I feel like if they paid me that much money, I owed it to them to give it my all. I just wasn’t with it 100 percent.”
Buckman played basketball for more than half of his life. Now he has to find something else to absorb his time and energy.
“I know it’s going to be hard because [I] don’t know what [I] love,” Buckman said, “but I am excited to find out.”
It could be commercial real estate. He recently joined Aquila Commercial, a real estate agency in Austin, as a broker.
But Buckman will never forget the places basketball took him.
He was a standout at Westlake High School, then played at the University of Texas from 2002 to 2006. That span included the 2003 Final Four appearance in New Orleans, where the Longhorns lost to Carmelo Anthony and the eventual champions, the Syracuse Orange.
On a team of upper classmen that included college player of the year T.J. Ford, Buckman played in every game his freshman season.
“He could really rebound the ball and pass it,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “I think where he helped our team too was he had an attitude where he had short memory. When things didn’t go well, he was able to put that behind him and move on.”
He entered the 2006 NBA draft, but no team drafted him. After a year in the NBA Developmental League with the Austin Toros, he competed for 10 different teams from 2008 to 2014 in countries such as Greece, Germany and Turkey.
“I had a pretty big contract going over to Europe,” Buckman said, “so I was like should I chase my dreams or get a year under my belt and see what happens? I went to Europe and never looked back.”
Buckman returned to the United States last May and decided to retire in November. He also got engaged to longtime girlfriend Alexis Jones.
“Wedding planning is hard, going back and forth,” Buckman said.
Jones and Buckman met when they were 10 years old, attending middle school and high school together before going separate ways for college and losing touch for almost 10 years. They reconnected three years ago.
“The rest is history,” Jones said. “He swept me off my feet.”
Living away from family in Europe was starting to wear on Buckman. He was ready to be closer to his family.
“[My parents] aren’t old, but they are getting older,” Buckman said. “I don’t want to miss out on opportunities with them.”
Jones is happy her husband-to-be was able to retire on his own terms.
“So many athletes don’t have the chance,” Jones said. “There’s a peace and a sense of personal achievement when anyone ends something on their own terms.”
Buckman said he cherishes the opportunity to play internationally and cannot wait to take trips back to Europe. He embraced European cultures, teaching himself various languages and making friends with the locals.
“I never thought I would have friends outside of Austin, much less Europe,” Buckman said. “Now that I am done professionally, I want to keep traveling because I just have a travel bug in me now.”
Buckman said he hopes to use his experiences in college and internationally to help players with private coaching and in basketball camps.
“I want to give back to my West Lake community,” Buckman said.
To do that, he had to come home. He had made his decision. It was time.
There were temptations to return. Just a month into retirement, Buckman got an offer to play in China. He gave it some thought.