Michael Buchanan had a simple schedule to prepare for his senior year with Palo Verde’s boys basketball team.
“Right after my junior season, pretty much all my time was working out and homework,” he said.
Panthers coach Jermone Riley took notice.
“He wasn’t going to accept coming off the bench his senior year,” Riley said.
Buchanan combined a growth spurt with an improved work ethic to blossom from a relatively unknown 6-foot-6-inch center as a junior to a 6-10 Division I prospect as a senior.
Buchanan made an oral commitment to South Carolina Upstate in March, and the Spartans expect to receive his national letter of intent by Thursday. The NCAA’s spring signing period for basketball began Wednesday and ends May 16.
Buchanan will go from a winning program in high school to another in college. South Carolina Upstate, an Atlantic Sun Conference school located in Spartanburg, S.C., went 21-13 this season and reached the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Buchanan tentatively plans to study either fire science or criminal justice to become a firefighter or police officer.
“Being able to go to college free, and I might be able to do something else with basketball later on in life, it’s a big moment,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan was listed at 6-10, 250 pounds as a senior, but he said he was recently measured at 7 feet tall.
Though South Carolina Upstate was Buchanan’s only offer, Alabama-Birmingham, Loyola Chicago, Pepperdine and Southern Utah also recruited him.
Buchanan is considered a late bloomer who is active around the basket and runs the floor well for his size.
“He’s skilled with great hands and great feet,” Riley said. “I truly believe when it’s all said and done and he leaves college, he’ll leave an all-conference guy and he’ll leave an impact.”
Buchanan averaged 12.3 points and 8.2 rebounds on his way to second-team All-Northwest League honors as Palo Verde (19-6) reached the Sunset Region final.
It was a far cry from Buchanan’s junior season, when he averaged 2.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in limited minutes.
“I did a lot more running and strength training than I had done the year before,” Buchanan said. “A lot of leg workouts, squatting, jumps and plyometrics. It helped me be able to run better on the floor and explode better when I was going up for shots.”
Riley offered his center perhaps the ultimate praise.
“It’s kids like Michael who make you want to stay in this coaching profession for a long time,” Riley said.
San Diego State confirmed it received a signed letter of intent from Findlay Prep forward Winston Shepard, who committed to the Aztecs in February.
DePaul confirmed it received a signed letter of intent from Green Valley guard Durrell McDonald, who committed to the Blue Demons in January. A ceremony is scheduled to honor McDonald at 2:20 p.m. Thursday at Green Valley.
Bishop Gorman point guard Gio Guzman committed to Florida International on March 20, but the Golden Panthers fired coach Isiah Thomas on Friday. Gorman coach Grant Rice wrote Wednesday in a text message that Guzman remains interested in Florida International but is waiting to decide on his future.
Durango wing Joe Tuss plans to join Air Force’s prep program.