By Thomas Sellers Jr.
A county, a town and a gymnasium very familiar to Nic Buford, it is easy for the first year Munford Cougar Basketball head coach to call his new job home.
Back in 2019 Buford was given his first opportunity to coach varsity basketball with the Millington Lady Trojans. Making strides with that program, gained the attention of the area teams including the administration at Munford High School.
Then after a district championship and district runner-up finish, the Cougars said goodbye to coach Ryan Ross. The chance for Buford to return home opened up.
“I will be totally honest it feels good to be back home,” Buford said. “It’s a lot easier commute. Familywise I have more time with them. It’s a blessing. It’s a total blessing. I’m just thankful everyday I open my eyes. Any of those days are good days.
“The transition was rather easy,” he added. “Millington totally prepared me for this. I will be eternally grateful to the city of Millington, admin of Millington, players, the parents, everyone. It just prepared me for this. The transition has been easy.”
Buford’s coaching career has seen a year sandwiched by taking over two young programs with COVID-19 in the middle. As the calendar turned to 2020, Buford was guiding the Lady Trojans to respectability after a few down years.
By March 11 the world was slammed by the coronavirus pandemic. Then Buford got the call to take over a youthful Munford boys’ program that graduated two classes full of talent.
“Although when you come home, everybody knows you,” he acknowledge. “You hear things and they don’t mind saying things to you — good or bad. So your skin has to thicken up a little bit.
“I’m just happy and more than anything I’m happy with the outpour of support from these parents and kids just coming in head first,” Buford added. “Fighting through COVID and uncertain times, they come in everyday ready to work. I can’t be more proud of a group.”
Just like last year with Millington, Buford has created an atmosphere of personal accountability developing into an overall team concept.
“The thing about the expectations, they are still wondering what they are expecting from themselves,” he noted. “They are really not worried about the expectations. Right now they’re only worrying about what we’re throwing at them at this points. We’re still in the process of figuring each other out.”
In 2019, Buford started with a inside/outside duo of Jamiya Turner and Micaiah Halliburton.
Fast forward to fall 2020 the sharp shooting of Levi Poindexter and post game of Javaris Tolton will help the Cougars get their offense rolling.
“We’ll surround them with a couple of kids who can shoot it a little bit,” Buford said. “We’ll have Michael Lee out there a little bit. He’s a junior. Then look for Murray Norman as a freshman. Jordan Bell will step in as a freshman and he’ll get to play. Shane Cox kids will step in and contribute. We’re just having fun in the process of figuring each other out and learning who will go where.”
As for Poindexter and Tolton, just like with Halliburton and Turner, Buford will have off-the-court expectations for the duo.
“What I want to see out of them is leadership,” he said. “I want to see them take ownership of this program and lead the younger ones. I want them to establish the way we want to lead things around here. They’re two great students in the classroom which makes this the basketball part so easy.
“Because we’re not going to throw out the Princeton offense out there,” Buford continued. “We’re going to play simple, clean basketball. But to have two young men built like that lead the program is amazing for me Coach Miller and the other Coach Buford.”
Despite being around familiar surroundings, Buford knows this day and age is full of uncertainty. He wants to created an environment in his old gym of certainty.
“Day by day, you’re dealing with people quarantining and all this stuff,” he said. “You’ve got to just stay prepare. We tell them this all the time, ‘Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.’
“Because you never know right now,” Buford concluded. “My expectations for this year, we’re going to just have fun, learn each other, get to know each other and just bond. Here is where you form lifetime bonds. They’re forming those right now. I see some of my old teammates from my senior year and they have gotten in connect with me to congratulate and encourage me taking over the program.”