BLOG: A Month With Buck

Alexis Hornbuckle, Mercury fan-favorite, makes a special visit to Phoenix in December. Follow along with us as we document her numerous appearances in the community, with Mercury fans and her grueling workout schedule.

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 20, 2012

Day 18: North High School Clinic

Teaming up with former Mercury player, Adrian Williams-Strong, Hornbuckle put the entire girl's basketball program at North High School (the Mercury's Adopt-A-Team) through a clinic at US Airways Center today.

On the front of North High School's practice jerseys reads, "Hard Work." Fitting, because "hard work" was a perfect description of the clinic Buck put them through.

They started with a lengthy stretch/warm-up, then transitioned into full-court passing drills and the dreaded defensive slides. You could tell that Buck's goal was to help make them better players than they were when they entered the gym; that's how Hornbuckle approaches the game every day, and something she wanted to instill in each player.

Hornbuckle is no stranger to high school teams; she has helped coach and train multiple squads over the years. So while the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams all worked extremely hard, Buck also made sure they had fun.

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 19, 2012

Day 15: Give the Gift

Buck, along with nearly 30 Mercury fans, enjoyed watching the Baylor vs. Tennessee game at Wolfley's American Grill as part of the official Phoenix Mercury holiday party. Most importantly, Buck wanted to thank everyone who made a donation to the Mercury's "Give the Gift" campaign which helps get underserved children to Mercury games.

Hornbuckle, a former Tennessee standout, also gave invaluable insight to fans as to what it was like to play at the school under legendary coach, Pat Summitt.

And although the outcome was certainly not what her alma mater wanted (they fell to Baylor 76-53), Buck nonetheless enjoyed the game and interacting with fans.

Not surprisingly, the always friendly Hornbuckle made lots of new friends -- perhaps none more thankful or excited than the newest Mercury fan pictured on the right.

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 17, 2012

Day 12: Sunshine Acres Children's Home

Capping off a busy week of volunteering and appearances in the community, Hornbuckle stopped by Sunshine Acres Children’s Home last Friday, December 14, to sign autographs and take pictures with future NBA and WNBA stars.

The Phoenix Mercury and Arizona Rattlers partnered with Carrington College to help host the holiday event for the kids. Sunshine Acres Children’s Home’s mission is to provide a home for children who are separated from their parents and help them establish long-term relationships with stable parental figures, preparing them for success in adult life.

The best part of the event was when one young girl, maybe eight-years-old, challenged Buck to a game of one-on-one.

“You think you could beat me?” Hornbuckle said with a smile.

“Well,” the youngster replied. “Yeah...I probably could. I have a pretty good jumper, you know.”

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 13, 2012

Day 9: St. Mary's Food Bank Visit

Santa + Scorch + Buck = the perfect volunteer trio.

Along with BBVA Compass volunteers, Buck and Scorch made a visit to St. Mary’s Food Bank on Thursday to help load food boxes and spread holiday cheer.

St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance, the world's first food bank, is a non-sectarian, nonprofit organization with a mission to alleviate hunger through the gathering and distribution of food while encouraging self-sufficiency, collaboration, advocacy and education.

Needless to say, the highlight of the day was when BBVA Compass presented a $5,000 check to St. Mary’s Food Bank which will help distribute over 20,000 meals to families in Phoenix.

Buck did a little bit of everything during her extended visit. She spent quality time talking with individuals in the lobby, assisted in the preparation and loading of food boxes into client’s vehicles, and signed autographs for dozens of individuals.

Most importantly, however, she helped put a smile on the faces of those going through a tough time.

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 12, 2012

Day 7: "Hello, This is Alexis Hornbuckle"

“Are you joking?!”

That was the typical response Buck received.

Today, Buck visited the Mercury offices and surprised a few current and potential Mercury season ticket holders with a phone call.

“She was great,” Mercury employee Jen Fusci said (Fusci also took the photo you see on the right). “She was able to joke around with and build excitement for people on the other end of the line. The fans she was able to reach loved it.”

For Buck, not only was it fun to talk with Mercury fans, it gave her a chance to get to know a few more employees for the Mercury.

“That’s one reason why I really respect the Mercury organization,” Hornbuckle said. “We get to know all kinds of employees, not just the ones on the basketball-specific side of things. It helps us, as players, have a better sense of belonging.”

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 11, 2012

Day 6: Workouts and WNBA Cares

Today, Buck’s agenda started with a heavy strength and conditioning workout (pretty much like every other day she’s been here) followed by an appearance at Roosevelt Elementary School in Mesa, AZ as part of the WNBA Cares and BBVA Compass “Team. Works. In Schools.” initiative.

Along with NBA Cares Ambassador and NBA Legend Felipe Lopez, WNBA Legend Bridget Pettis, and BBVA Compass volunteers, Buck read aloud to students and guided the children through fitness and basketball activities during a WNBA FIT clinic.

BBVA Compass volunteers joined sixth-grade students in the computer lab where staff from Everfi - the leading educational technology platform that teaches, assesses and certifies students in critical life skills - provided the group with an overview of the web-based Vault program.

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 10, 2012

Day 4: High School Visit

Unfortunately, a stomach virus kept Buck out of commission for a couple days.

But that didn’t stop her from visiting last week’s High School Team of the Week, Desert Vista High School.

“I’m not going to miss a chance to talk to these kids,” Buck said as we made our way into the gym.

The team was working hard on free-throw shooting, one of their key points of emphasis this season. After watching a couple players shoot, she couldn’t help but chime in.

“Make sure you bend your knees!” Buck said with encouragement.

Sure enough, the next two shots went in. And more importantly for the varsity team, that meant they wouldn’t have to run sprints.

Once practice settled down, Buck held a lengthy Q&A session with the kids. Questions ranged from where she went to college, the toughest player to guard in the WNBA, and how to deal with difficult situations on and off the court.

But the highlight of the talk came when one player asked Buck how many championships she’s won.

“What level should I start with?” Buck said facetiously while cracking a little smile.

She then began to list all of the championships she’s won starting in AAU all the way up to the WNBA.

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 6, 2012

Day 2: Q&A's and Workouts

Buck started the day off at a Q&A breakfast session with some of the Suns and Mercury staff.

“I love playing here,” she said when an employee asked about the Mercury’s well-documented pace of play. “Corey [Gaines] is great with the players. The only time he’ll get mad at us is if we don’t shoot the ball. I’m not used to that. It took me a while to get healthy but towards the end of the season last year I started to feel really comfortable with it.”

One employee asked who the toughest player to guard in the WNBA is.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to guard Diana [Taurasi] anymore,” Hornbuckle said with a chuckle.

After a lengthy chat with the staff, she went to her daily workout of strength training and conditioning. For what it’s worth, she is in fantastic shape already and plans to head overseas to play in Israel closer to the end of the year.

In the evening, Buck met up with some new and current Mercury season ticket holders for another meet and greet.

“I’m tired,” Buck said. “I had a good workout today. But every time I’m around Mercury fans I get energized.”

Posted by Ben York: Dec. 4, 2012

Day 1: Donuts Make Everything Better

It’s always good to see Buck.

You can’t help but smile when you’re around her. It’s likely due to either her unrelenting positive attitude or simply because she is one of the funniest human beings I’ve ever met.

Probably a mixture of both.

Whatever it is, when you’re around her, it’s hard not to have a good time.

Her first day in Phoenix was somewhat low-key. She had an early meeting with Lesley Factor-Miller (Director of Public and Community Relations) at Starbucks to discuss her agenda or (for lack of a better term) itinerary throughout her stay.

Needless to say, it’s jam-packed. Lots of community appearances and gym time.

“Sounds good to me!” Buck said with infectious energy before departing for her first objective.

And what better way to start her trip than by delivering donuts?

Hornbuckle’s first task was to bring the inexorable joy of the flakey breakfast pastry to our friends at the United Way, thanking them for all their hard work in helping us get underserved children to Mercury games.

Best. Appearance. Ever.