Summitt, Caldwell and DeMoss on Buck

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: Nov. 30, 2012

Alexis Hornbuckle ("Buck") has already become a Mercury fan-favorite for her intense, leave-everything-on-the-court style of play.

Prior to Buck’s visit to Phoenix in December, we thought it would be fun to catch up with the people who know her best for unique insight on the five-year pro: Mickie DeMoss, Nikki Caldwell and the legendary Pat Summitt.


Mickie DeMoss
(DeMoss, now an assistant coach with the Indiana Fever, helped recruit Hornbuckle to Tennessee.)

DeMoss on recruiting Buck:

“I liked her spirit. She could find the lighter side of things but still had a competitive edge. The first time I saw her play was when she was in 8 th grade at an AAU tournament in Louisiana. She reminded me of [five-time Olympian and Hall of Famer] Teresa Edwards. She was a big guard that could play multiple positions and big guards are hard to come by.”

Her favorite memories:

“Her junior year against Texas A&M, she hit a deep three-pointer in front of Gary Blair to win the game for Tennessee. Another game against LSU, she came up with a big rebound and got the put back for the game winner. She's not afraid. She seems to come up with big plays and isn’t afraid to be the hero or the goat.”

Hornbuckle’s success in the WNBA:

“This year in Phoenix, I was glad to see her get minutes. She played smarter and her game has caught up with the pros. She’s a risk taker; she gambles and has a flare about her. She has all the tools and certainly knows how to play defense and rebound.”

Nikki Caldwell
(Now coaching at LSU, Caldwell was an assistant coach under Pat Summitt at Tennessee during Hornbuckle’s college career.)

Caldwell on Hornbuckle’s versatility:

“She’s a program changer. She’s always the best defender and can play multiple positions. We always put her on the best offensive player and she took it as a challenge to shut them down. She’s flashy, but has the ability to control the basketball in the open floor. At Tennessee, she quickly learned to adapt. She wanted to play point guard but Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood was there and then Shannon Bobbit came in. But she was always good at being a team player.”

When she knew Hornbuckle was a leader:

“Her senior year. During the season, we had just lost to LSU. Sylvia Fowles was having her way with Candace Parker and Parker was having a hard time defending her. In the locker room, Pat [Summitt] was letting Candace know about it. Alexis stood up for Candace, spoke up, and asked Pat not to come down so hard on her. She said that Candace would be fine and that the team had Candace’s back. She took ownership in the locker room that day. I really feel that that was a difference in the team coming together and going on to win the NCAA Championship.”

The two Hornbuckle's:

“There are two Hornbuckle's: One who can help get you there when she is playing off the ball, and the other who, when the game is on the line, you want her to have the ball in her hand because she makes things happen.”

Hornbuckle: soccer star?

“What people might not know about Buck is that her first love was soccer. It really helped in her ability to react and defend.”

On Buck’s maturity:

“With all the different roles she’s had to play, she’s had to mature quickly. If you knew her playing in AAU and high school, she commanded a packed house and she was the star player. Now, she’s not quite as flashy, but she has willingly accepted her roles. She’s won a title everywhere she’s gone – AAU, high school, NCAA and WNBA. The ‘kid’ knows how to win.”

Pat Summitt
(Nobody knows Hornbuckle better than legendary coach Pat Summitt. Hornbuckle won two NCAA National Championships under Summitt’s leadership.)

Summitt on Hornbuckle’s intangibles:

“Since I coached her, I know a lot about her. She’s full of life and always ready to play. She did whatever was asked of her. Now, Alexis is a great leader and teammate. She loves the game, holds others accountable and plays hard. I’ve always liked that about her.

Describing Hornbuckle:

“Alexis has great qualities. She knew the game back then and still knows the game. More importantly, she's a hard worker. I always really liked her intensity and how hard she played. I never had to worry about that. When she got to Tennessee, I found how many different positions she could play and how versatile she was. She’s really grown up a lot…and has a lot of tattoos.” [laughs]