The Summer Of Micayla
Post Micayla Buckner Working To Be All-Conference
DENTON -- When Micayla Buckner showed up to the first workout of the 2017 summer for the Mean Green women's basketball team there was a different rhythm to her steps.
What used to be a trudge was now a strut.
As the redshirt junior made her way across the court, the air around her brought energy to the gym. Something was different about her that was missing when the team last saw her.
"I'm playing with a different attitude," Buckner said. "I want to be all-conference. I know I can be and, after last season ended I decided to work for that, because I think I let the team and myself down last year."
Physically, Buckner has slimmed down.
Following the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, the 6-foot-4 post sat down with head coach Jalie Mitchell and the two talked about what she needed to do to reach those goals. One was to get in better shape.
As soon as she could, Buckner was in the weight room working out twice a day. She doesn't know exactly how much weight she's lost but she says she can feel the difference in team workouts. She's kept up with the guards and says she's in the best shape of her life.
On the court, Buckner has looked to both be more dominating in the paint while also expanding her range as a shooter.
"She's a gifted athlete," Mitchell said. "She's matured a lot this summer through working hard to reach her personal and team goals. It's a beautiful thing."
During a practice this summer, associate head coach Bobby Brasel took Buckner aside and told her that he felt she was on the brink of something special. That she was in the midst of a serious turning point.
"Having the support of my teammates and coaches has helped me a lot," Buckner said. "Seeing my progress and hearing it from the coaches has really pushed me to keep doing what I'm doing and to work harder, because I don't want to have a repeat of last season."
A season that didn't quite meet the high expectations she had coming into the year.
A 2014 graduate of Naaman Forest High School in Garland, Buckner began her collegiate career at Baylor before transferring to Collin College for a season. At Collin, Buckner was NJCAA First Team All-Region V and was named the third-best junior college post by ESPNW.
Last season with the Mean Green, Buckner was a starter early on and showed flashes of talent. In the second game of the year she had 10 rebounds and nine points. In a win against Iona at home, she scored 10 points and had eight rebounds. But by mid December she lost her starting role and saw her minutes severely reduced, including not playing at all against Rice on Jan. 14.
"I wasn't happy with how I played most of the year," Buckner said. "So as soon as I could I was working on my game, and now my teammates have seen what I can do and they now hold me to that standard and that's important."
In the gym, Buckner showed off her new jump shot by nailing five consecutive mid-range shots, something she would have never attempted during a game last season.
As the sixth shot swished through the net, even the reserved Terriell Bradley took notice with a yell of encouragement.
When the team scrimmaged against one another, Buckner was running out in front of the point guards and defense looking for the pass in transition.
"She's shown a lot of maturity this summer," Brasel said. "She's really taken it upon herself to be better for the team, and we're pretty proud of her."