Up close and personal: Brad Buckman and Tiffany Jackson
The ups and downs of Brad Buckman's basketball career have been well chronicled. He came to Texas as a McDonald's and Parade Magazine All-American. The 6-foot-8 forward earned All-Big 12 Freshman honors on the 2002-03 UT team that reached the NCAA Final Four.
Buckman's 2003-04 season could politely be called a sophomore slump. But he has come back this season with a vengeance and is more than living up to the high expectations that most have for him.
Buckman grew up in a golf household, and he uses a links analogy to explain how he put his sophomore season behind him.
"Golf and basketball are so different, but in each it is so important to keep your focus," Buckman said. "That's what happened to me last year. I didn't have that focus or consistency. In golf, when you hit one bad shot or have one bad hole, you have to forget about it and pay attention to what's ahead, focus on what you can do something about. So I decided that last year was like one bad golf shot or one bad hole. I couldn't do anything about last year. But I could buckle down, work harder and do something about this season."
Buckman's connection with golf is common knowledge with anybody who follows Longhorns basketball. Without fail, every televised home game will feature a shot of Buckmans' father, Brent, and the explanation that he is an Austin club professional (Spanish Oaks Golf Club) who was a teammate of Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite and who played on the 1971 and 1972 Texas national championship golf teams.
"It has become a little bit of a joke around our house," said Buckman, a graduate of Austin Westlake. "I get on TV because I'm playing. Dad gets mentioned because of having played golf here, and then he gets a plug for his course. I think Mom (Tammy) gets a little jealous because she's never included, and her real estate business doesn't get mentioned."
Buckman recalls always having a golf club in his hands from the time he was three years old. He showed promise, too, until his size began to dictate that basketball would be his calling.
"Brad always had very good hand-eye coordination, and I think he could have been very good at any sport he tried," Brent said.
"He was a pretty decent golfer as a kid. He still is, but his size gets to be a problem for a golfer.
"It was never important for Tammy or me that either of our kids (Brad has a 22-year-old brother, Ben) get into golf as a career," Brent said. "But it was important that they learn the game of golf because of all the good things it teaches you. The self-discipline, the etiquette. Those are pretty good life lessons you get from golf."
Over the years, Buckman soaked up lessons from his Dad and from Crenshaw, a close family friend. Brad was born Jan. 11, 1984, just three months before Crenshaw won the first of his two Masters titles, a fact Brad says, "is really cool."
"Dad and Ben know what it takes to do well in any sport. They know about being in the spotlight and having to perform under pressure," Brad said. "I've learned from them about how to handle yourself, about managing your time, things like that.
"They also have talked to me a lot about the importance of focus and consistency in any sport," Buckman added. "Last year they talked to me a lot about playing your way out of a slump, and their advice has been a big help."
Tiffany Jackson was accustomed to being in the spotlight long before she came to The University of Texas. At Duncanville (Texas) High School, she was a three-time all-state basketball player, and as a senior was first-team All-America by every conceivable publication and organization that hand out such awards. All of the national recruiting services ranked her the No. 2 or 3 prospect in the nation.
With such accolades, Jackson was used to being in the public eye. Reporters jotted down everything she said. Television lights and cameras were often pointed in her direction.
"All the attention never bothered me," Jackson said after a recent Longhorns practice. "In fact, I probably enjoyed the attention and being around the cameras. Maybe that's why I decided to get into communications."
The honors, and the attention, continued to follow Jackson through her rookie season a year ago when she was Big 12 Freshman of the Year and National Freshman of the Year by ESPN.com and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Jackson had an idea what was coming, but she quickly learned the responsibilities that come with being part of a high profile program like Texas.
"People are always watching you -- and not just during the games," Jackson said. "It's kind of like people are looking to see what kind of person you really are, how you behave. Coach Conradt talks to us a lot about how we don't just represent ourselves. Everywhere we go, we represent ourselves, our teammates and The University of Texas. I guess we become role models for young girls, and that really makes you think about the way you act. We see the way Coach Conradt handles herself in all those public situations. That's a real good example."
Conradt did not just flip on a switch and teach Jackson how to behave as a public figure. Jackson was born with tremendous athletic ability and then received first class coaching along the way. She also was born with a solid set of values and then benefitted from the love and guidance of her parents, Marques and Josephine, and her grandmother.
"Mom and Dad and grandma did a great job of raising me. I had a happy childhood and also learned a lot of lessons," Jackson said. "As I got more and more into athletics, they made me realize the responsibilities and expectations.
"It's tough for anybody just going to school and doing the right things," Jackson added. "It's even more so for an athlete because of the demands on your time and everything else."
Jackson cites her grandmother as the single biggest influence in her life and uses one simple quote as she goes through life.
"Grandma all the time told me, 'Be sure you always handle yourself like a lady,' " Jackson said. "I think about that a lot, and it's a good lesson to keep in mind. It kind of covers everything."
Jackson's opponents don't use the term "lady" in describing the play of the powerful 6-foot-3 forward. She can dominate a game at both ends of the court, and she is the player opposing coaches hope to just neutralize. They know there is no stopping her.
There appears to be not stopping Jackson in her basketball career. With her talent and determination, a career in the WNBA seems likely. She is often compared to Longhorns great Clarissa Davis, a two-time national player of the year who played 10 years of professional basketball.
"That's my goal, to get to the WNBA. But I know I have a lot of work to do to get to that level," Jackson said., "After that I hope to get into TV and maybe become a sports analyst."
Always in the spotlight.