Buchan changes oar from basketball

pic by Michael Gillen
pic by Michael Gillen
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Cameron Buchan stands at an athletic six feet and ten inches tall. Think of a sport suited to him and his athletic frame and you probably guessed right - basketball.

But not any more.

Through basketball, Buchan has stumbled upon a hidden talent - in rowing.

The teenager, formerly of Denny High School, has spent the past year playing basketball at Kent Prep School in Connecticut in a bid to gain a scholarship in the sport at a top university. That didn’t happen for basketball, but now attention is turned to a scholarship on the water, not under the net.

He’ll return to the US after the summer spent back home in Dunipace. He would’ve maybe been in the first team, had basketball not been his main focus when he arrived on campus.

“I had a try-out at rowing when I arrived and the rowing coaches thought I had potential, but I didn’t really think about it and was playing basketball.

“That meant I missed a training camp where the rowers go away and the teams are selected.

“I now know that if I had taken it on and gone to the training camp at the time, I would likely be in the first team.”

The 18-year-old believes he has stumbled across a hidden talent, and just by chance it’s come at one of the most prominent schools for rowing.

“Once I gave rowing a go I was put into the fourth team. I was then promoted after one race to the thirds, and then again immediately up to the second team. That’s where I am now.

“Rowing’s not really something I ever considered - even when I started at Kent, but the coaches encouraged me and as I carried on I found it more and more enjoyable.

“It’s probably a hidden talents I’ve found accidentally, something I’ve learned about myself.”

The signs were there from an early stage though. Buchan’s first test on a rowing machine over two kilometres was within the top five times in the school. His rapid rise through the ranks almost landed him on the water at the famous Henley Royal Regatta in the Thames Challenge Cup this week.

“The school fields an Alumni team, and since I was over here I was put on the team when a few former pupils said they wouldn’t be participating. They’ve changed their minds though so as a stand-by I dropped out again - I’m hopeful of making it next year.”

To do that he’s continuing his training in Scotland. “I’m rowing with my coaches three or four times a week. I am training here too, heading to Edinburgh University and Strathclyde Park to practice on the water. There are not really any eight-man boats in Scotland and that’s what I’m used to over in Kent.

“I’m learning to scull here on my own - that uses two oars. In Kent I sweep row using one oar and try to improve it - but that can’t be done if I’m on my own, obviously.

“I’ve been doing that for two weeks since I’ve been home, and there’s a lot more onus on my balance - something I will have to work on because I’ve capsized twice.

“In the US it is a great life. I had no idea Kent’s rowing standard and the national titles it had won.

“But in basketball we were a bit disappointed. In the fall we were looking at winning the New England championship for all the teams in that area, like taking in New York Connecticut and that sort of area. We had a great game going into the quarter-final and everything looked good, we were really confident. But it didn’t click on the day and we didn’t do well in the quarter-final.”

While all that was going on Cameron was rowing in the background and enjoying it more and more. “I just found rowing a lot more fun. Everyone relies on each other. In basketball there can be a moment of brilliance and someone can be having a bad day but others can cover a little bit for them. Everyone in rowing totally relies upon each other - that’s something I like.”

It requires total devotion, and there’s no option to combine it with basketball Buchan has been told. “I wanted to keep my basketball going but I’ve been told I can’t really do that because rowing is an all-year round sport, and doesn’t really have an off season with all the training camps that take place.

“I had options on basketball that weren’t on the right level to what I wanted. Educationally I have been enjoying myself too. The physics and mathematics that I enjoyed at school pushed on and I found that all really interesting. But I found out I was good at rowing, I enjoyed that and the school just happened to be a very very high level for rowing.”

He won’t give up on slam-dunking altogether though, Fury coach John Bunyan will be pleased to know. “I spoke to JB and he wished me all the best, without basketball I would never have known I was a rower.

“My basketball nets are still outside the garage, and they’ll stay there. Obviously my sister Mairi still plays over in the States and basketball is something I’ve always done so I will keep it up, and keep the training going - it all helps me when I’m in the boat.”