Remembering a magical time at EWU
Maybe it takes a shooting star to revive memories of past flashes.
Such is the case at Eastern Washington University.
For two seasons, Rodney Stuckey lit up Reese Court like no other on his way to being a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Pistons. As Stuckey gave the record book a workout, memories danced off the page.
Stuckey set EWU records for career scoring average (24.4 points a game) and free throws made (386) on his way to finishing fourth on the career scoring list (1,399).
In that rarified air you find Randy Buss, fourth on the career scoring list (1,399), third in average (17.l) and second in free throws made (317).
Hot Rod, meet Magic.
That elicits a laugh from Buss.
Back in the day – Buss played three seasons, finishing as a NAIA All-American in 1972 – there was a bus that ran from Spokane to the campus called the Magic Bus.
“I don’t know why they called it that,” Buss said, “but my name is Buss …”
The bespectacled Buss, quiet and unassuming, was magical on the court.
“He was a soft-spoken introvert who seemed to be very soft and non-aggressive off the court but his demeanor off the court was a far cry from how he played,” said then Eastern coach Jerry Krause.
Buss finished with big numbers for his three-year career despite not putting up big numbers on a nightly basis. His game was consistency.
His 596 points as a senior stood as the school record for 17 years and his career scoring average stood for 18. Yet he had just one 30-point game in each of his three seasons, although the 36 he scored against Metropolitan State as a senior stood as the school record for more than 17 years.
Buss finished with 849 rebounds, a school record until teammate Dave Hayden broke it the next season. His career average of 10.4 rebounds a game is third but he doesn’t have a single game in the top 12.
“He was one of the best players that ever played at Eastern Washington,” Krause said. “He had great end-to-end speed and just unbelievable hands.”
In the three seasons Buss played, Eastern went from 8-18 to 17-11 to 22-7. There were a host of school records that still stand from the last season, including an average of 90 points a game.
“I have a lot of good memories,” said Buss. “We played in the old airport hanger (the since burned-down fieldhouse) in ’72.”
Like many athletes, it’s easier to remember disappointments than individual success.
“When I was a senior, we got into the playoffs,” he said. “We played Western Washington for the right to go back to Kansas City for the national tournament. We played one game at our place, two at theirs. We won the first one and were 20 points up in the second one and ended up losing (78-75), and losing the next game.
“That was the most disappointing thing of my time there,” he added.
After his three seasons, Buss played in Belgium for three more. He visited Cheney shortly after that but hasn’t returned since.
Buss has settled down in Minok, Ill., 20 miles north of Bloomington, where Illinois State is located and about 100 miles from his hometown of Shannon.
He played a year of JC ball after high school but dropped out and joined the Army.
“When I was in the Army … in Germany, …about all I did was play basketball.”
By then, the late Ron Raver was at Eastern. He remembered Buss from his days at Pearl City, Ill., and tracked him down.
“It wasn’t much of a change over what I had back here,” Buss said. “As far as being away from home, I had just come back from Germany so it was no big deal.”
When Buss returned to Illinois he drove truck and got married. Once his first child was born, he didn’t want to travel so he helped his wife Betty raise hogs. They did that for about 16 years before he returned to driving truck, hauling farm-related cargo locally – crops and fertilizer.
They have a daughter, Kristina, 29, and a son, Jamie, 24. Kristina has two sons, and although Buss is a reluctant talker, they’re learning of grandpa’s exploits.
“My mother kept a lot of stuff we’ve showed them,” he said. “The oldest likes to look at it.”
He remains a loyal alum, attending many games the Eagles have played in the Midwest. It reminds him of a magical time.