ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — About two miles where he went to high school, Dwight Buycks was back on a Milwaukee basketball court Wednesday, trying to have the next step in his basketball journey come in his hometown.
As one of 23 players working out with the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a three-day, free-agent minicamp at the Cousins Center, Buycks continues to get closer to the NBA dream he’s chased since starring at Bay View High School six years ago.
“I feel like I’ve been working real hard to try and get there,” Buycks said. “I just haven’t stopped yet. I’ve been working and working. I feel like the time is coming, but I just have to keep working until then.”
Nothing about Buycks’ basketball career has come easy. Grades forced him to head to Indian Hills Community College out of high school, but he eventually worked his way to Marquette University for two seasons.
At Marquette, Buycks was a nice player, but was still learning how to become a point guard. It was a difficult transition for a player who was counted on to score in high school and junior college.
“It was a learning process for me, coming from junior college,” Buycks said. “I was an All-American, scoring this, scoring that, and coming there I had to take a role as a point guard. I had to distribute the ball and get other guys involved. I had NBA guys on the team in Jimmy Butler, Lazar Hayward, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, we had a lot of good players I was surrounded by. To be the point guard there was a good thing for me.”
After averaging 8.8 points and 3.4 assists per game in his senior season for the Golden Eagles, Buycks latched on the Phoenix Suns for training camp, but was released. He spent the 2011-12 season in the D-League, averaging 15.1 points and 2.6 assists per game for the Tulsa 66ers.
Then it was more summer leagues, trying to latch on with an NBA team. After Buycks found his luck to be dry again, he signed to play in France with Gravelines.
Leading his team to the best record in the regular season, Buycks was named the league’s most valuable player, averaging 18.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
“For my first full season overseas, I think I was in a great situation,” Buycks said. “I came there and right away had to make an impact. It was a great team, a great organization and I had a great relationship with the coach. I had to learn new things, but I came in and adjusted right away. My teammates loved me, and I loved playing with them. It was a good season for me. I did a lot of good things and had a lot of accomplishments for my first full season, but there’s still room for more work.”
Winning most valuable player in a top tier European basketball league was an accomplishment Buycks is certainly proud of.
“That was definitely a big accomplishment for me,” Buycks said. “I was excited. I was happy for myself, just the hard work trying to prove everybody wrong that had doubts. I just try to let nothing stop me from getting to my dream, which is getting to the NBA.”
Since leaving Marquette, Buycks is a different player, but also a different person. He admits he’s much more mature off the court, as well as on the court. His mind is 100 percent focused on making it in the NBA.
“One of the things, even when we had him in for a draft workout when he came in, is that his point guard skills were much better than we thought they were,” Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney said. “Now he just continues to improve. It’s just a matter, with most of these payers, of being in the right place at the right time.”
Buycks hopes that the experience he’s gathered from being in an NBA training camp, playing in summer leagues and playing in France can help him in his next opportunity.
“It helps a lot,” Buycks said of his experiences. “It gets you ready for the little things. You have to focus on the little things here. When you get to wherever you want to go, you are definitely going to get a lot more thrown at you. You just try to take the little things that you learn from this camp and take it to the next camp. You just put it all together.”
He’s still using the lessons taught to him by Marquette head coach Buzz Williams. The two still text back and forth, as Williams still likes to have fun with his former player.
“He tells me I’m soft, stuff like that,” Buycks said. “We joke around, but we definitely have a great relationship. He’s always there when I need to talk to him about anything on and off the court. He’s a great guy, we’ll never lose contact with each other.”
With just seven players under contract for next season, the Bucks are looking at this free agent mini-camp as an opportunity to bring a few players to their summer league team, or even sign one or two to a contract for next season.
Milwaukee’s guard situation is uncertain, as Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent, while Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick are unrestricted free agents. The opportunity certainly is there for Buycks to realize his dream with his hometown team.
“It would mean a lot,” Buycks said. “I feel like my story would fit real perfect with it. My story is junior college from high school, overseas from college, I think it would be a great story. It would be a great thing for the environment here in the community. It would be a big thing. It would truly be a dream for me.”
Of course Buycks wants to make it for himself, but he also wants to be an ambassador for basketball in the city of Milwaukee. He wants kids to look to him as proof it can be done.
“That would be a great thing for these young kids,” Buycks said. “I would be a great role model for them, to see a hometown guy play for the hometown team. It would encourage kids to really buckle down and try and focus on basketball. Whether that starts before they get on the court in the classroom, just working trying to get the good grades so you don’t have to take a route to go to junior college and go to a Division I right away and start your dreams. I think it would be a big thing for the community to see that. It would open a lot of eyes.”