In September of 2017, Mike Buckmire walked on to the Duke men's basketball team, joining Brennan Besser as one of the team’s two walk-ons.
And now, just over a year and a half later, the rising junior has finally earned a scholarship.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced this past Monday that the team has awarded Buckmire its final scholarship spot for next year, completing the Blue Devils’ 2018-19 roster.
Buckmire has been heralded as an outstanding leader and one of Duke’s hardest working players throughout his career in Durham. His player bio on GoDuke.com goes on to specifically point out the respect Buckmire receives “for his attitude and work ethic” and how the Blue Pell, Pa. native is “regularly one of the first players on the practice court and last off.”
Through two years, Buckmire—a pre-med student in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering—has seen 18 total minutes of playing time over eight career games. While that number may seem low, the Germantown Friends School product has made the most of those 18 minutes. And it all started in his first career appearance.
On December 5, 2017, the Blue Devils defeated Saint Francis 124-67 behind a monster 21-point, 11-rebound outing from future second overall pick Marvin Bagley. But it wasn’t Bagley who provided the highlight of the night.
With 40 seconds left, former walk-on Justin Robinson emphatically blocked a layup from the Red Flash’s Jordan Forehand. The ball smacked off the backboard and right into the awaiting hands of Buckmire, who dribbled back down the other side of the court. Buckmire had assisted on a Marques Bolden dunk less than a minute earlier, so the guard initially appeared to survey the court for a similar play. Instead, the rookie saw a lane, and an opportunity.
This time around, Buckmire wasn’t going to dish it off to another five-star teammate. He was going to take it himself. The former third-team all-state selection in high school drove down the right side of the paint, absorbed about as much contact one would ever see at the end of a 57-point game and threw the ball up off the backboard.
The shot went in. The whistle blew. The crowd went wild.
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Buckmire slid down the baseline and was quickly mobbed by his teammates on the court, as the Cameron Crazies continued to roar in the background. He would promptly sink the free-throw to complete the three-point play, the only three points of Buckmire’s career thus far.
With a team as strong as Duke is year in and year out, some of every season’s greatest memories come during non-conference play in the final minutes of blowouts, when the team’s lesser-known athletes finally get the chance to show what they can do. One of the loudest moments this past season at Cameron Indoor Stadium was when Besser—a then-senior walk-on—drilled a jumper for his first career points in a win over Stetson.
With Buckmire now a scholarship athlete, incoming walk-ons Michael Savarino—Krzyzewski's grandson—and Keenan Worthington will become the new focus of underdog-hungry fans.
Buckmire will still have his moments during his final two years in Durham though, and nobody will forget that and-one layup against St. Francis, a moment that will live on in Blue Devil lore for years to come.