My growth from 'naive hick' to sports reporter

Top recruits sit behind Duke’s bench during Countdown to Craziness. Brady Buck covered recruiting for The Chronicle.
Top recruits sit behind Duke’s bench during Countdown to Craziness. Brady Buck covered recruiting for The Chronicle.

I descended upon Durham in August 2009 as a naïve hick from the middle of nowhere, somewhere on the border of Colorado and Nebraska. And when I wasn’t deciphering college basketball message boards like a junkie who needs his daily fix, I was a student at Duke University.

As a former high school football player who only garnered attention from Division II and III clubs, I had always been enamored with the high-profile recruitments of elite prep athletes.

Heading into my junior year at Duke, though, I knew something wasn’t quite right. Something was missing. I needed another outlet and experience aside from schoolwork, fraternity life and my part-time job to make my last two years as an undergraduate a little more fulfilling than the first couple.

In the late summer of 2011, after having a few discussions with my close friend and fraternity brother Jason Palmatary—a legendary Chronicle sports writer in his own day—I finally found a calling to put my borderline obsession into constructive use. From my perspective, The Chronicle’s coverage of Duke basketball recruiting had always been very underwhelming relative to the unprecedented demand for it. I felt strongly that I could drastically change that for the better.

I stumbled into The Chronicle’s office asking then-sports editor Chris Cusack to take me on, even though I had zero journalism experience. Thankfully, he obliged. And a few days later, he ripped apart my first feature on Jeff Capel joining the Duke coaching staff, a humbling evening that made it painfully evident my background was in cattle ranching and not journalism.

With time, practice and tutelage from other writers, I learned the ropes of sports journalism quickly. Covering football, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, and most notably recruiting, my all-out immersion in the field started yielding content that wasn’t too shabby.

I must have done something right in my first year on the staff. Last summer while working in Washington, D.C., I was floored when Andrew Beaton—the 2012-13 sports editor—asked me to cover the Krzyzewski-led U.S. National basketball team for a weekend as it prepared for the London Olympics in the nation’s capital. Struggling to contain my inner fandom and awe, I had unthinkably close access to the best team in the world for a weekend. I interviewed Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and several other NBA superstars—a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget—after being able to watch them practice perched on a courtside seat in an abnormally intimate venue.

My senior year as a sports reporter was stockpiled with unforgettable moments. I covered the pinnacle of jubilation as Sean Renfree’s dart to Jamison Crowder lifted Duke over North Carolina in the game’s waning seconds inside of a sold-out Wallace Wade Stadium, which cemented the program’s rise from the laughing stock of the BCS to its first bowl berth in nearly two decades and return to national relevance.

After tracking the recruitment for three years, I attained an unforgettable sense of personal satisfaction with my name in the byline as a record amount of online traffic flooded the Chronicle’s website when prized recruit Jabari Parker committed to Duke in December. Beaton and I published the story in real time as the announcement came out despite the two of us being in different countries at the moment. And I’ll be able to tell my grandkids that I covered Duke basketball and one of the greatest coaches in all of sports in the Big Dance.

A truly defining element of my Duke experience, writing for The Chronicle allowed me to grow as a writer, student and person. It kept me sane when going through stressful times. And it enabled me to gain some valuable friendships that I never otherwise would have had.

I’m going to miss having an excuse to call ESPN’s Dave Telep to talk about the latest happenings on the recruiting trail. I’m going to miss shooting the sh*t with Tom Gieryn and Beaton in the office. And I’m going to miss sitting on press row at Cameron Indoor Stadium as my dress clothes get ruined by blue paint.

When I look back at my college career some of my proudest accomplishments will be the content I penned in 301 Flowers. It did not matter if I was driving back from Blacksburg at 4 a.m. on icy roads or if I had a 7 a.m. wake up call after a long night at Shooters to field a phone call from Wojo for a feature. Not once did I ever consider it work. I viewed and treated it as the dream gig, and I learned more by interviewing sports pundits, star players and standout coaches, as well as working alongside my Chronicle colleagues than I ever did sitting in any classroom. (I was probably reading message boards anyways during the lecture.)

As I leave the Gothic Wonderland and retire from arguably the best duty in collegiate news, I will cherish the memories and continue to utilize the laundry list of invaluable skills I acquired in the pressroom when I’m out in the real world.

In two short years—which was regrettably not four—I’m very proud to say that I helped make something better than it was before, while doing something I possessed an unparalleled passion for.

Brady Buck is a Trinity senior and Chronicle basketball and recruiting beat writer.


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