By Chad Bonham
2016 Elite Eight: Oklahoma 80, Oregon 68 (March 26, 2016)
Buddy Hield was nervous. It’s a fact that might have seemed surprising to the college basketball fans that had watched the Bahamian shooting guard shred defenses all season long.
But in the hours leading up to the University of Oklahoma’s Elite Eight game against the top-seeded Oregon Ducks, Hield allowed the heaviness of the moment to weigh him down. Getting the Sooners back to the Final Four for the first time in 14 years was a significant goal and he didn’t want to fail his team.
That’s when Hield turned to a pre-game ritual that his mother Jackie Swann had inspired much earlier in his life. He picked up his Bible and read through a series of Old Testament passages including Psalm 27, Psalm 35, Psalm 37, Psalm 91, and one of his favorites:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)
“I read them before every game,” Hield explained. “I’m trying to get my mind right.”
Immediately after the opening tipoff, his nerves dissipated. Hield set the school’s NCAA Tournament with 37 points and led the Sooners to a dominant 80-68 victory. After the game, he let the national television audience in on his secret.
“I was nervous before the game today, but I just prayed and read the Bible,” Hield told CBS after the game. “That always calms me down. That’s what gets me in my rhythm.”
He added more depth to the story when interviewed during media day at the Final Four in Houston.
“I will read the Psalms, which is what my mother taught me to do at an early age,” he said. “I know she will be praying and so will I. It calms me down.”
Oklahoma lost its Final Four matchup against the eventual champions from Villanova, but that didn’t take away Hield’s incredible season as the winner of the Wooden Award, the Naismith Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy, and Sporting News Player of the Year.
This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.
(Photos: Christopher_M01; Max Goldberg)