Butch's ugly elbow injury still a painful memory
HAVERFORD, Pa. --The sight of Brian Butch landing awkwardly on his right elbow at Ohio State is still too grisly to cue up again.
But, unless you were courtside, you have no idea what it was like to hear that injury and Butch's audible agony.
More than four months later, the Wisconsin senior center still recounts the injury with a nervous laugh, a twinge of his face and a sigh of relief that he's back playing; this week he competed for the U.S. Pan Am Games team but didn't make the final roster.
"It hurt like heck," Butch said. "It hurt right away and then the shock hit. I didn't realize what was going on. The worst part was when it got put back in place right back on the bench."
Butch said Wisconsin's trainer Henry Perez-Guerra yelled at him to relax and once he did, "I said do what you have to do."
It was then that Perez-Guerra popped the dislocated elbow back into place.
"He got it on the first try," Butch said. "It hurt like well, the worst pain I've ever felt in my life."
Believe it or not, Butch actually wanted to go back into the game. He said he initially viewed the dislocation of the elbow like a dislocated finger. He figured once it was popped back into place he was good to go. That may have been the shock settling in because Butch had no idea that he also had suffered a fracture.
"I really didn't know what was going on," Butch said.
Ultimately, Butch was ushered to the locker room, where his elbow was put in a sling. He made a valiant comeback attempt to return against UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But that was clearly wishful thinking, and he did not play in the 74-68 loss.
"I was just hoping to give the team some minutes, but I don't know if I could have done much of anything," Butch said. "It was my right arm, my shooting hand, so playing with a big brace made me pretty restricted. My shot was like a shot put."
Spin forward to Thursday night at Haverford College. Butch wasn't making many jumpers, but at least he had his form back. He had the full extension on his shot and only a small black brace was on his elbow. He said he's still going through rehab for his elbow and was told he might not be completely healed for a year.
But that won't damper his enthusiasm for the Badgers or for his game.
Remember, this is a player who has been maligned -- fairly or unfairly -- for much of his career. Butch was a McDonald's All-American out of Appleton, Wis., yet he made the rare decision to redshirt as a freshman.
Butch, at 6-foot-11, was a bit awkward when he arrived in Madison and still hadn't filled out his frame. When he did start to play, he averaged 3.6 points and 2.5 boards as a redshirt freshman and 9.9 points and 6.0 rebounds as a sophomore. But that was OK to Butch because he was simply trying to balance everything in his world.
"There were a lot of things happening in my life," Butch said. "My mom was sick. A lot of people don't see things like that. They just see basketball. There were reasons why I couldn't concentrate on basketball that were more important. As a person I went through a lot of things that are tough to deal with and I dealt with them.
"If I could do it again, would I change anything? No. I found out what type of person I am and I changed some things, and that's good for me now. Everyone is good in my family now, and I can concentrate on basketball."
Butch's self-analysis and recovery from his injury couldn't come at a more opportune time. With the departure of first-round draft pick Alando Tucker (Phoenix) and lead guard Kammron Taylor, Butch is the team's top returning scorer at 8.8 points a game .
Butch, Greg Stiemsma and Joe Krabbenhoft will be expected to rotate in the post for coach Bo Ryan while swingman Marcus Landry, and guards Michael Flowers, Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes make up another top-four Big Ten team.
"I need to step up a bit more, and we're looking for leaders," Butch said. "Our younger guys are looking for leadership. We're all playing this summer with Marcus playing great, Bohannon the type of guy who could put up 20 on a given night, Stiemsma and Krabbenhoft both good passers and we've got good freshmen coming in. We're all getting better."
Butch is hardly a lock to make this Pan Am Games roster, not with his rehab still ongoing. But the fact that he's here, healthy enough to contribute and clearly focused on becoming a major factor for the Badgers, is a huge victory in and of itself for Butch and Wisconsin.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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