ALBANY Taran Buie is going to have the basketball in his hands more often this season when Bishop Maginn is digging for points.
With a solid freshman showing and a breakthrough sophomore campaign, the prize combination guard has earned the green light.
“This year, we’re asking him to score a little more,” Golden Griffins coach Rich Hurley said of the Daily Gazette’s youngest 2008 first-team all-star. “We haven’t had to, because we had his brother two years ago, and last year, we had four guys in double digits.”
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Buie ended up topping them all, finishing with a 16.3 points-per-game average, after closing his sophomore season with four impressive scoring games against four of the state’s best teams. He went 9-for-12 and netted 20 against Mount Vernon in the Class AA public school semifinals, and tacked on 15 more in a title-game romp of Niagara Falls to secure tournament most valuable player honors. He fired in 18 in a season-ending Federation loss to Abraham Lincoln, and made that tournament all-star team, too.
“Look at the state championships,” Hurley said. “He can score, but we didn’t ask him to be the man.”
The 17-year-old is one of only three regulars back from last season’s 26-2 team, joining senior guard Bunduka Kargbo and senior center/forward James Torres. Each was also a contributor on Bishop Maginn’s 23-4 2007 state runner-up edition that was anchored by Buie’s brother, Penn State starting guard Talor Battle.
“This year, my role has definitely increased,” said Buie. “There’s the leadership side of it, and the offensive side. I think I could average 30, but we’ve got a good team, and I want to share.”
Buie has a great knack for doing so, and that, in part, is what makes him so unique, and so desired by major Division I college programs such as Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Syracuse and Penn State. The silky, explosive 6-foot-2,
180-pound Buie is a multi-threat oozing with potential to do more.
With his display of scoring, ball distribution, rebounding, defense, hoop smarts and grit, he landed a spot on the all-state third team as a 10th-grader. His latest award came last week, as one of 21 players named to the Preseason 2K Sports New York State High School All-Star Team.
“He’s a talented kid,” said Christian Brothers Academy coach Dave Doemel. “Think about what an impact he made as a sophomore. As a junior, he’ll make a greater impact.”
“He does a lot of things,” Schenectady coach Mark Sausville said. “Richie is fortunate to have a player like that.”
Buie averaged over six rebounds, four assists and four steals to go along with his 27 double-digit scoring games as a sophomore, those the by-product of slashing drives, putbacks, soft jumpers and powerful slam dunks. Seven times, he generated at least 20 points, topping out with 28 against Troy and 27 against Catholic Central.
“He has a chance to be special,” Hurley said. “Those guys aren’t recruiting him because he’s Talor’s brother. He’s tough. He’s a top-40 player in the country.”
ESPN’s Scout.Inc has Buie ranked as a top-40 national college prospect for the class of 2010, Rivals.com rates him 53rd (13th among point guards), and Scouts.com/Scouts.Hoops has him 60th. He’s already begun the recruiting process, paying unofficial visits to Notre Dame, Maryland and Penn State. The AAU Albany City Rocks product took a trip to Pennsylvania and watched his older brother and Penn State play their season opener earlier this month.
“I’m not sure,” Buie said when asked about a time frame for choosing a college, noting it won’t be any time soon. “I have to figure out what’s best for me as a student and as a player. When it hits me, I’ll know.
“It’s definitely a blessing, although it can be a little annoying at times [recruiting process],” he continued. “I enjoy it for the most part, but right now, it’s all about winning games. That’s my focus.”
Buie excelled in two of Bishop Maginn’s most significant games last season, collecting 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a 71-51 Section II title-game win over CBA. In the state semifinals, against a Mount Vernon team that had ended the Griffins’ 2007 run, he notched those 20 points and led a fierce defensive stand with four steals in a 54-52 victory.
“I’m a big team guy,” Buie said. “I’ve got some [individual] goals, but I’m putting them on the back burner. I want to take this team to another Section II championship, and to the state and Federation championship. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
That means scoring and sharing the ball. He envisions himself doing a lot of both.
“You’ve got to keep the big men happy,” Buie said. “They set screens for you. They do a lot of the dirty work. They deserve to get the ball.”
“He’s definitely the guy we’re going to run our offense through, but at the same time, he’s a very unselfish player,” Hurley said. “He likes to pass and he knows when to do it. He’ll also rebound for us and play defense for us.”
There’s that new leadership role, too.
“Ben [Kargbo] is a leader by example. Taran is becoming the vocal guy,” Hurley said. “He’s the guy telling the other guys, ‘This is how you play for coach. Get used to the yelling. He’s trying to make you better.’ ”
Bishop Maginn has 10 new varsity players, including a pair of 6-7 juniors in Michigan transfer Nico Rios and Albany Academy transfer Shavar Fields, and a handful of underclassmen who went unbeaten at the JV level.
“I’m trying to help out the guys with their early struggles, and letting them know what to expect,” said Buie, who just turned 17 in late September. “It’s a different role for me, but I’m trying my best.”
On paper, Bishop Maginn looks like the best team in both the Big 10 and the Section II Class AA group.
“We’ve got a new team, and a young team, but we’re athletic, pretty big and we’ve got a lot of guys who can put it in the hole,” Buie said. “We can do some good things if we come together as a team, put the basketball part of it together, and go out and handle our business.”