You surely know Mississippi had two basketball teams playing in the NCAA men’s version of March Madness.
But did you know Mississippi also had two brothers playing Thursday on two different teams at two different sites nearly across the continent from one another?
Meet the brothers Leroy “Shaq” Buchanan of Murray State and Shunn Buchanan of New Mexico State. Both grew up in Durant. Both played high school basketball at Madison Central. And both played junior college ball at Northeast in Booneville.
At Hartford, Shaq Buchanan, the older brother and a senior, scored 14 points and contributed six rebounds and two assists to help 12-seed Murray (Ky.) State defeat 5-seed Marquette 83-64. At Salt Lake City, younger brother Shunn, a back-up junior point guard for 12-seed New Mexico State, scored two points and passed out two assists in 12 minutes of playing time in the Aggies’ heart-shattering 78-77 loss to 5-seed Auburn.
Now then, meet Stephanie Latiker, of Madison, their mother, who had to decide which of her sons to go watch. She was leaning toward staying at home and watching both on TV until the younger brother Shunn helped her decide.
“I thought long and hard about it, but Shunn said that I should go watch his brother because he’s a senior and these would be his last games of college basketball,” Latiker said. “So that’s what I did.”
Turns out, she got to see the end of Shunn’s game, as well.
“We were at the arena getting ready to watch Murray and they put the end of the New Mexico State game on the jumbotron,” Latiker said. “What a heartbreaker!”
New Mexico State had a chance to beat Auburn in the finals seconds until one of Shunn’s teammates missed two of three free throws with 1.7 seconds remaining.
But Latiker was there for what many sports writers and sportscasters were calling the best show of the first day of the tournament. Murray State, led by sensational point guard Ja Morant, dominated higher seeded Marquette. Morant scored 17 points, passed out 16 assists and also rebounded 11 times to lead the Racers. Several of the assists were to Shaq Buchanan.
“I was so proud of my son, but I was proud of the entire team,” Latiker said. “Actually, I’m super proud of both my sons and both their teams. It’s been hard following both of them, with them playing so far from home, but it’s been rewarding at the same time. Now I just hope Murray can just keep going.”
Murray will play Florida State in the second round Saturday at 5:10 p.m.
Former Ole Miss standout Rahim Lockhart, who coached both the Buchanans at Madison Central, is not surprised by the collegiate success of either.
“Shaq is a such an humble kid, a team-first guy who doesn’t have a selfish bone in his body,” Lockhart said. “He’s all about winning. People talk about his offense (he averages 13.1 points per game) but he’s the best on-ball defender I have ever coached. You watch him on defense. Man, he guards you.”
“Shunn Buchanan is the prototypical little brother,” Lockhart said. “What I mean is he’s been Shaq’s little brother all his life. He’s never going to give up because he’s been going up against his big brother all his life. Off the court, there’s nothing there but brotherly love. But on the court when they go against each other, it’s a war. That’s why Shunn is never going to back down from anyone. He’s never going to be intimidated.”
Stephanie Latiker can vouch for that. She can remember them playing against one another on the goal in their yard. Says she: “There was never any mercy shown.”
Neither brother was highly recruited by Mississippi schools. Neither was recruited at all by Ole Miss or Mississippi State. Southern Miss really liked Shaq but was caught in a scholarship crunch because of NCAA probation. Jackson State offered Shunn, but he opted for New Mexico State.
“Sometimes I wish they had played in Mississippi, so I could have watched them more,” Latiker said. “But how can I not be happy about the way it’s turned out?”