All along, Leon Buchanan thought he was an academic qualifier coming out of high school and that he needed 48 transferable junior college hours to move to a Division I school and play immediately.
Instead, he later learned that he was a half-credit short after high school. He needed 12 more hours to get his degree and be eligible for the 2007 fall semester.
Other schools backed off, so he signed with Morehead State even though he was facing a possible redshirt season.
"We were finishing our first year of a huge reclamation project," Morehead Coach Donnie Tyndall said. "Leon was a risk worth taking at that stage because he could be an impact player right away.
"His JC coach (Todd Sheppard) said, 'He's a great kid. I trust him, he'll get it,e_SSRq" Tyndall recalled.
Buchanan got the hours by attending summer school at Abraham Baldwin Area College in Georgia.
"Leon could've gone to a Division II school and been eligible right away," Tyndall said. "They were beating his doors down."
Tyndall had discovered Buchanan at a junior college jamboree held each fall in Georgia. It attracts many schools from throughout the Southeast.
"Leon caught my eye because he was playing hard even though he was undersized," Tyndall said. "I thought he might go to a Sun Belt or C-USA school, but we tried to stay involved."
Buchanan's determination and Tyndall's perseverance paid off for the Eagles.
"The biggest thing that stands out is that arguably he's the best practice player I have," Tyndall said. "Leon's never had a 'bad effort' day. He may not shoot well or have too many turnovers, but it's not lack of effort.
"I think he has a chance to be first-team all-conference and have a huge senior year. That's not just 'coachspeak.e_SSRq"
Buchanan had an instant impact last season. He averaged a team-high 13.2 points, averaged 6.1 rebounds and made the Ohio Valley Conference's All-Newcomer team along with freshman teammate Kenneth Faried. (Both made the OVC pre-season team, too.)
The Eagles were 15-15 and third in the OVC at 12-8.
"We surprised people," said Buchanan, a 6-foot-5 power forward from Albany, Ga. "We all knew we had talent, and we forgot about ourselves and put the team first.
"It was a great feeling. We deserved (a good season) because we worked for it. We'll be a better practice team this year."
The Eagles open the season at Louisiana-Monroe at 8 p.m. Friday. They will play in the Cancun Challenge Pool games, then go to Cancun, Mexico for the finals. In between, they will face Louisville in the Billy Minardi Classic on Nov. 22.
"We're all working hard and wanting to win," Buchanan said. "It's all vainglory if you don't put in the work. You can't turn it off and on. We turn it on and leave it on."
Tyndall said, "I'm always giving Leon praise in front of our team. The guys watch and observe how hard he works. It makes my job easier."
No. Name Pos Ht. Yr. Hometown
0 Carl Taylor G 6-3 Jr. Decatur, Ga.
1 Maze Stallworth F 6-4 Jr. Elizabethtown
2 Cecil Brown G 5-11 Jr. Grand Rapids, Mich.
10 Robert Murry G 5-10 Jr. Cleveland, Ga.
11 Terrance Hill G 6-1 Fr. Columbus, Ga.
12 Andreas Coleman F 6-7 So. Danville, Ill.
13 Ty Proffitt G 6-4 So. London
15 Brandon Shingles G 6-3 Jr. Albany, Ga.
20 David Forrest G 5-9 Fr. Atlanta
22 Demonte Harper G 6-4 So. Nashville
23 Les Simmons F-C 6-7 Sr. Mountainville, N.Y.
24 Derick Echols F 6-5 Fr. Bronx, N.Y.
25 John Lamb G 6-1 So. Indianola, Iowa
32 Steve Peterson F 6-4 Fr. Columbus, Ga.
33 Leon Buchanan F 6-5 Sr. Albany, Ga.
35 Kenneth Faried F-C 6-8 So. Newark, N.J.
44 Blake Pettit C 6-9 Fr. Morehead
Nov. 3—x-CARLETON; 14—at La. Monroe, TBA; 16—a-at Vanderbilt, 5; 19—a-at Drake; 22—b-at Louisville, TBA; 23—b-TBA; 29—a-Grambling, TBA; 30—a-Central Florida, TBA
Dec. 4—TENN. MARTIN, 7:30; 6—MURRAY ST., 4:15; 14—at Illinois St., 3:05; 18—JAMES MADISON, noon; 22—KY. CHRISTIAN, 7; 30—at E. Tennessee, 7
Jan. 3—at Austin Peay, 8:30; 5—at Tennessee St., 8:30; 8—TENNESSEE TECH, 7:30; 10—JACKSONVILLE ST., 4:15; 15—at SE Missouri, 8:45; 17—at E. Illinois, 8; 19—CONCORD, 7; 24—EASTERN KY., 7:30; 29—TENNESSEE ST., 9; 31—AUSTIN PEAY, 6:15
Feb. 5—at Jacksonville St., 8:30; 7—at Tennessee Tech, 8:30; 12—E. ILLINOIS, 7:30; 14—SE MISSOURI, 4:15; 18—at Eastern Ky., 7; 21—c-TBA; 26—at Murray St., 9; 28—at Tenn. Martin, 7
March 3, 6-7—d-TBA
x-exhibition; a-Cancun Challenge (at Cancun, Mexico, unless otherwise noted); b-Billy Minardi Classic; c-ESPN Bracket Buster; d-OVC Tournament at Nashville