Nov. 21, 2005
By A.J. Henderson, FSU Sports Information
Growing up, most athletes who play high school or youth league basketball dream about the day that they are in the NCAA Tournament playing against the best teams in the nation in a pressure-packed environment. In fact, Florida State’s trip to the NCAA Tournament last season was a dream come true for sophomore Tiffiny Buckelew.
“I’ve always dreamed of going to the tournament, and I’m glad that we were sent to Storrs,” Buckelew said. “Playing UConn was the ultimate NCAA experience. Playing on their home court was amazing with the crowd and excitement that their arena held. There are just not enough words to describe it. It is an opportunity that hardly anyone gets.”
Buckelew is a perfect example of how working hard does make dreams come true. She had to work extremely hard to be noticed, hailing from small town Cleveland, Tennessee. Some refer to Cleveland as the place along Interstate 75 between Knoxville and Chattanooga where the fireworks store and Waffle House are, but to Tiffiny, it is home.
To put it in perspective the term “small town,” the 38,886 students enrolled at Florida State are more than the population of Cleveland all together as only 37,192 people live there.
“Coming from Cleveland to here was a big culture shock,” Buckelew said. “People laugh at me when I call Tallahassee a big city.”
Buckelew was, however, big news in her small town of Cleveland. She played high school ball at Bradley Central, a regional powerhouse where she averaged 20 points, pulled down four rebounds and tallied five assists per game. During her four years as a starter, she collected all-district and all-regional honors every year. In her final three years, Buckelew was named all-state. She was able to reach the 1,000 point plateau as a junior.
In addition to her transition to a bigger city, Buckelew has had to work hard to adjust to playing Division I basketball and to Florida State’s system, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“Defense is something I’ve been working hard on since I got here,” Buckelew said. “It was a big transition from the high school game to college, with learning to play tough, hard-nosed defense being the trademark here. I feel like I’ve gotten better, improving my footwork, but really, the work is never over.”
So Buckelew will continue to work hard to make her dreams come true and will, along with the rest of the Seminoles, work hard to make Florida State a national contender and a staple in the NCAA Tournament.
“This year, we are working to reestablish our trademark heart and enthusiasm,” Buckelew said. “It’s what we’ve been known for in the last few years. We also have to earn respect from our competition. In order to be one of the elite schools in the nation and the conference, your competitors must not only respect you, but also fear your spot on the schedule. That is what we want to instill.”