The Spirit of St. Louis
Feb. 1, 2001
By: Jonathan Gust, Villanova Media Relations
One year ago, the "Spirit of St. Louis" landed on the Main Line and made an impact not often seen in college freshmen. A 6-3 guard with an accurate shooting touch and the athleticism to take the ball to the hole, Gary Buchanan became the Wildcats starting two-guard just 11 games into his rookie campaign and never looked back.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Buchanan was the top player on a talented St. Thomas More High School team. As a senior, he averaged 18 points, six assists, and six rebounds per game, connecting on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. Buchanan was one of six players on his St. Thomas More team to sign Division I scholarships. Despite a list of colleges that also included Kansas, Missouri and Marquette, he wound up choosing Villanova as his next destination.
"The coaches at Villanova had a big effect on me, especially Coach (Joe) Jones," said Gary Buchanan. "He (Joe Jones) recruited me for over a year and I really liked him. When I came here on my visit, the people were great. Coach Lappas and Coach Pinone were very nice. Plus, they (the coaches) had two starters at the guard position that were leaving. That would give me the opportunity to come in and play as a freshman."
Buchanan saw quality minutes immediately as a freshman in 1999-2000. In his first college game versus Lafayette, he shot three-of-six from the floor and scored eight points. Four games later, Buchanan posted 14 points, three rebounds and two assists in a three-point loss to the nationally ranked Temple Owls.
"Believe it or not, I had a lot of jitters early on," said Buchanan. "But Coach Lappas put me in to score. He told me that I needed to score in order for our team to be successful, and my teammates also looked for me to score. I had a lot of butterflies, but I was never afraid to take the big shot - that's just part of the game."
On Dec. 29, at Bradley, Buchanan had his finest game to date, shooting six-of-12 from the field, four-of-eight from three-point range and seven-of-seven from the line for a career-high 23 points. He was a key factor down the stretch in helping the `Cats emerge with a narrow 63-62 victory.
Due to the success in his increased role off the bench, Buchanan earned his first career start on Jan. 9 against Penn at the Palestra. He struggled in his first six starts of the season including a three-point, one-for-10 shooting effort versus the Quakers, but Lappas continued to exude confidence in his young guard.
A few weeks later, Buchanan heated up the Pittsburgh winter with a 20-point, six-rebound performance against the Panthers. That contest began a streak that saw him record 15 double-figure scoring outputs in the final 17 games of the season. Buchanan's best day came at home versus West Virginia on Feb. 15, as he registered 28 points and shot eight-of-12 from the field.
Despite just missing out on the NCAA Tournament, Villanova had a number of positives to take from the 1999-2000 season, namely the play of its stellar freshman guard.
Buchanan ended his freshman campaign second on the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game. He shot 43 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from long distance. Even more impressive were his accolades from the free-throw line, where he shot 69-of-74 for 93.2 percent accuracy. At one point during the season, he hit on 45 straight free throws to shatter Tom Sienkiewicz's school record of 30 consecutive.
Buchanan was recognized for his outstanding play throughout the 1999-2000 campaign. He was named Big East Rookie of the Week twice during the season and received Big East All-Rookie honors at the conclusion of the year. In addition, Buchanan was also named to the All-Philadelphia Big Five second team.
Buchanan began his sophomore season exactly how his freshman year ended...on fire. He started the season with a 20-point, six-rebound game against Fairfield in the Preseason NIT. Buchanan scored in double-figures in 11 of Villanova's first 14 games, a stretch that saw the `Cats post a 10-4 record. Hitting on 39 of 40 attempts from the charity stripe to begin the season, he is currently shooting 94.7 percent for his career.
Looking to lead Villanova back into the NCAA Tournament following a one-year hiatus, Buchanan and the Wildcats are off to a good start in 2000-01. With the inside-outside tandem of Buchanan and center Michael Bradley, Villanova has the offensive balance that was missing one season ago.
With two-plus years remaining for Buchanan at Villanova before his departure, "the spirit of St. Louis" has a lot more flight left in it, and based on the continued improvement he has already shown, there is no place to go but up.