Senior double-double artist toils tirelessly in pursuit of points and rebounds for Anteaters’ women.
|UC Irvine’s Camille Buckley (24) is averaging 14.8 points and 9.2 rebounds, both tops on the team heading into Thursday’s 5 p.m. nonconference home game against La Verne.|
Camille Buckley is not a business major at UC Irvine. She just plays one on the basketball court.
The Anteaters’ senior post is as effusive and effervescent off the court as your average stand-up comedienne. But when it comes time to lace up the hi-tops, there’s clearly no time for high jinx.
“It has just always been that basketball is business,” said Buckley, a fifth-year senior who began playing at age 6 and has virtually devoted her life to the game ever since. “You are coming to work, and do what you can. You do your job, and then you go home. After that, your personality can come out. But on the court, it’s just business.”
Buckley’s job for the Anteaters is to continually overachieve, squeezing every ounce of performance, as well as some substantial statistics, out of a an athletic frame for which a 6-foot-1 listing on the roster should come with a serious disclaimer.
“I mean, Camille is carrying more than her load,” said UCI Coach Doug Oliver, for whom Buckley is averaging 14.8 points and 9.2 rebounds, both tops on the team heading into Thursday’s 5 p.m. nonconference home game against La Verne. “We are happy with her contribution and her progress. She has gotten better [since last season, when she averaged 11.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game and was the only player to average a double-double in Big West Conference games – 11.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest], and I think that’s really a plus for us.
“Defensively [her 21 steals lead the 6-7 squad], she has done a really good job for being an undersized post player and being able to rebound the ball like she has,” Oliver said.
Buckley’s shooting percentages (from 45.2% from the field to 48.1% and from 66.9 on the foul line to 80.5, the latter coming on 82 attempts, well more than her next two closest teammates combined – 71) have both improved this season. And, Oliver said, her ability to lead with consistent performance has also meant a lot to a team that has played just two home games thus far.
Determination and focus are only part of the package, however, as Buckley’s year-round devotion to the game she was inspired to play after viewing the movie “Space Jam” has rendered a sound fundamental foundation to go with an instinctive knack for finding the ball in the paint.
“[Rivals] have been coming after me for years and I’m used to hearing coaches say ‘Watch No. 24 on the boards. Put a body on her,'” Buckley, a second-team All-Big West performer last season, said. “So I use my quickness to my advantage and I have to maneuver a little bit. When the ball is in the air, I have to move my body different ways just to make sure I get the ball.”
When she gets the ball, she knows what to do with it, powering up frequent put-backs inside, or creating space for a jump hook or turnaround jumper by using her polished, physical approach.
At the heart of her success, however, is a competitive fire that is often fueled by friendship.
“When I know someone on the other team, and after playing on so many club teams, I know a lot of opposing players, I don’t care if we are friends or not,” Buckley said. “I don’t like losing to someone that I know. If we lose to Montana, I know I’ll never see those girls again. But Long Beach [State]? I can’t stand them. One of them used to be my friend. And I know people at [Cal State] Northridge and [Cal State] Fullerton. I don’t want to lose to you all.”
Buckley’s competitive zeal, and her colorful personality, surfaced earlier this season, when UCI defeated Loyola Marymount, at which Buckley played parts of two seasons and was West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year as a redshirt freshman out of Ontario Colony High in 2011-12. (She was granted a medical redshirt year after being hurt early in the 2010-11 campaign.)
“I couldn’t sleep last night, because I was so worried about it,” Buckley said after sinking two free throws with 14 seconds left to finalize a 63-60 win on Nov. 29 at LMU. “But I’m going to sleep excellent tonight. I’m going to be knocked out, drooling all on the side and everything.”
Set to graduate in May with a degree in criminology (she minors in psychology and social behavior), Buckley is unconflicted about her desire to put basketball behind her to enter the real world.
“I might play a little pickup basketball, but it’s time to move on,” she said. “[Basketball] is over after this year.”
Buckley, whose dream job is to become an FBI agent,” said she is eager to begin living a life free from the demands of athletics.
“I feel like I’ve been part of a team all my life,” she said. “Now, it’s time to go solo. Just do me. I’m very serious about the FBI. I’ll be like ‘Yo, stop, FBI!’ I could be a boss at that. I want to travel a bit, get a job, get a place and spend some time with my family. Next year at this time, if I have a day off, I just want to sit alone and reflect on my life. I want to listen to music. Right now, I have so much stuff going on, my time is not my own.”
For 17 more regular-season games, as well as a potential foray into the Big West Tournament, Buckley effectively remains on the clock for the Anteaters … business as usual.