October 12, 2011

Butler Begins 2011-12 Men’s Basketball Practice

WORK SCHEDULE:  There won't be any hard hats or lunch pails, but that won't change Butler's workmanlike approach to the official start of the 2011-12 men's basketball season.  The Bulldogs will kick things off with their first team practice on Friday, Oct. 14.  A year ago, Butler head coach Brad Stevens opted to take his team to Franklin College for its first few practices.  This year, the Bulldogs will remain at Hinkle Fieldhouse, but the focus on the basics and building a solid foundation will be the same.  There won't be any public slam dunk contests or three-point shooting events, but there will be ample time spent on defensive principles, rebounding, identifying good shots and taking care of the ball.  Butler will conduct closed practices throughout the opening weekend.  The Bulldogs return eight players from last year's 28-10 squad including juniors Andrew Smith and Chase Stigall, both starters in last year's NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game.  Senior Ronald Nored was in Butler's starting lineup in the 2010 NCAA title game.    

Butler recorded the fourth-highest win total (28) in school/league history in 2010-11.
                       
TEAM TURNOVER:  Butler fans may pay closer attention to their early season game programs than they have in past years.  Gone from last year's national runner-up squad are six players, including three of the team's top four scorers.  Leading scorer and rebounder Matt Howard finished his career as Butler's third all-time leading scorer and rebounder, and he's currently playing professional basketball in Greece.  Guard Shawn Vanzant, Butler's fourth leading scorer, signed a professional contract to play in Finland, while second-leading scorer Shelvin Mack opted to declare for the NBA Draft and was taken in the second round by the Washington Wizards.  Also gone are stellar "sixth man" Zach Hahn, and a pair of fifth-year seniors, Grant Leiendecker and Alex Anglin.  The five seniors helped Butler to a four-year 117-25 record.

The Bulldogs lost 64% of their scoring and 48% of their rebounding from last year's championship squad.             

NEW FACES:  Head coach Brad Stevens, entering his fifth season at the Butler's helm, will welcome seven new players to Butler's first full practice session.  That group includes six freshmen and one transfer.  The six first-year collegians matches the Bulldogs' 2008-09 freshman class as the biggest at Butler in more than two decades.  Making up this year's freshman group are 6-0 Jackson Aldridge of Sydney, Australia, 5-11 Alex Barlow of Springboro, Ohio, 6-4 Roosevelt Jones of O'Fallon, Ill., 6-5 Elliot Kampen of Muncie, Ind., 6-6 Andrew Smeathers of Bargersville and 6-8 Kameron Woods of Louisville, Ky.  Butler's seventh newcomer is 6-0 Rotnei Clark of Verdigris, Okla.  Clark transferred from Arkansas, where he was the leading scorer last season, and he'll have to sit out the 2011-12 campaign.   

BULLDOG BITS:  Butler has the most NCAA Tournament wins (10) of any team in the nation over the past two years...The Bulldogs have averaged 29.2 wins over the past five seasons, including two 30-win campaigns.  Only three teams in the nation, Kansas (165), North Carolina (150) and Duke (147), have more wins than Butler (146) over the last five seasons...Butler's 2011-12 coaching staff includes newcomer Michael Lewis, a former standout player at Indiana and assistant coach at Eastern Illinois.  Lewis joined the Butler staff in May, filling the opening created when former assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry left to take a position at Purdue...Head coach Brad Stevens, who owns the top spot on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Starts By Wins, 4 seasons (117), is the first Butler coach to reach the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four seasons.