USF basketball player Melvin Buckley has range.
But not only does the junior guard have talent when it comes to shooting the ball, but he’s worth noting when he’s behind the microphone as well. The quiet, reserved Buckley happens to sing rhythm and blues and has his own CD produced by Crazy Flow Entertainment. The underground label has given Buckley enough copies to distribute to his teammates, who are quick to give their opinion of their teammates’ music.
“He thinks he’s Brian McKnight,” senior guard James Holmes said. “I have his album; he gave us all his new demos. He sounds like Brian McKnight a little bit. Some people tell you they can sing and you don’t believe it. But he can sing.”
Holmes might not be Simon Cowell, but Buckley – or Mel-Buc as he is known – certainly impressed the producers of Crazy Flow, a company based in Buckley’s hometown of Chicago.
“(The producers) heard me,” Buckley said. “I was just playing around with a couple of my cousins. One of my cousins actually is working with Kanye West right now.”
But it isn’t all rubbing elbows with hip-hop and R&B’s big names; Buckley’s music takes a back seat during basketball season.
“Pretty much after the season is when I get back into the flow of that,” Buckley said.
Right now Buckley is into the flow of the Bulls’ starting lineup and living in Northwest Tampa, a long way from the streets of Chicago, where basketball is king.
“Knowing that my mom and my dad played ball, everybody pretty much expected me to play,” Buckley said. “I’ve had a basketball in my hand since I was 2 years old.”
Rain or shine, Buckley played the sport.
“That’s what it’s about in Chicago: playing basketball,” he said. “You wake up, and if it’s storming or cold outside, you still go outside and shovel off the court. That’s what it’s about.”
But in his junior year of high school, Buckley moved from downtown Chi-town to suburban life in south Chicago. There, Buckley enrolled in Thornwood High School, where he met now-Chicago Bulls forward Eddy Curry, who was then referred to as “Baby Shaq.”
While at Thornwood, Buckley got his first taste of the limelight, appearing on the show Preps, which spotlighted hoop dreams of Chicago-area high school basketball stars.
“They followed us around,” Buckley said. “Me and Eddy had a camera on us 24 hours a day, so it was fun.”
The exposure helped Buckley earn a top 50 rating as one of the nation’s top recruits coming out of high school. Buckley grew up in what he referred to as “Big Ten country,” so when Purdue came calling, he jumped at the chance.
At Purdue, Buckley got the advantage of learning from one of college basketball’s legendary coaches, Gene Keady, who had one of the most recognizable hairstyles in coaching.
“They got on him about the comb-over,” Buckley said. “But I mean, one thing I loved about coach Keady was he fired you up. He was electric. He’d get on you, but when it was game time, he had that white towel, he’d be waving it, he’d get down in a defensive stance with you. He was pretty good; I liked him.”
But toward the end of Buckley’s sophomore year at Purdue, assistant coach Jay Price, who recruited Buckley out of high school, departed for Illinois, and Keady announced his retirement. Unsure what a new coach would bring, Buckley looked for a change of scenery.
“I didn’t want to be left out there with a new coach,” Buckley said. “So I decided I’d rather kind of get out and experience a different program for two years.”
In the fall of 2004, Buckley looked around and found a little school in Tampa.
“I wanted to get away from the Midwest,” Buckley said. “I came down here, (and) I liked how the coaches were straightforward.”
Although he is, by his own admission, “one of those guys who likes to stick to himself,” Buckley wasted no time fitting in at USF. Buckley redshirted the 2004-05 season and used the time to get acclimated to the campus. In the spring, he became a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee and was elected president of the committee last fall.
He is also majoring in creative writing in order to give him time to work on lyrics for his music.Buckley’s music is his art, and he hopes to one day become a pioneer in rhythm and blues. Instead of discussing his post play, Buckley refers fondly to the “genius” of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the “craft” of R. Kelly.
So would Buckley be more nervous taking a last-second shot in front of 10,000 fans or performing a new song in front of the same audience?
“I guess I’ve been there, done that as far as basketball,” he said. “I’m not afraid about shooting the ball. It’s a little different thing with singing. You don’t know if you might crack or forget the words.”
But is Buckley ready to make the move from double-doubles to double-platinum? From sky hooks to singing hooks? From rebounds to remixes?
“I just like to play ball,” Buckley said. “I was always taught to do other things, to make sure you’re just not riding on the roundball. You never know what could happen.”
Whatever happens, his teammates are impressed with Buckley’s music.
“He can sing; he’d bring a girl over and you’d hear him singing,” roommate and sophomore guard Collin Dennis said. “But he’s into it; he’s doing his thing. He showed me a little mix tape he made in Chicago – it was good, I liked it.
“He could take it pretty far, if he gets in with the right people, they promote it right, he could be pretty big with it.”
However big Buckley gets, he can count on teammates and friends such as Dennis, especially if there’s a music video.
“I might get in the video, throwing up some money I probably don’t have,” Dennis said. “But I’ll definitely support him – he knows that.”