Butch slips into redshirt comfortably

Originally Published: November 20, 2003
By Jeff Shelman | Special to ESPN.com

It's a move that is so in the face of what's become the norm in college basketball.

Isn't being a college basketball player supposed to be a bad thing? Isn't the idea to make the move from McDonald's All-American to NBA draft pick in as little time possible? Aren't you supposed to be drafted because of potential and get better while getting paid?

Not in Brian Butch's world.

But Butch, a Wisconsin freshman, appears to have a little common sense.

Brian Butch
Brian Butch is taking a sensible approach in taking the next step.

There is little question that Butch, a 6-foot-11 forward/center from Appleton, Wis., is a talented player. Like many highly coveted big men, he can play both with is back to the basket and facing the basket. He can score in the paint and bury the three-pointer. He played in last spring's McDonald's All-Star Game along side players such as LeBron James, Luol Deng and Mustafa Shakur.

He's certainly talented enough to play this season for a Badgers team that is fresh off of consecutive Big Ten titles, and he'd probably make some jaw-dropping plays along the way. But he's also realistic enough to know that both his game and body need work.

So Butch did the unthinkable for a McDonald's All-American -- he has decided to redshirt. He's going to try to gain strength. He's going to try to add weight. He's going to try to get better.

And, yes, he knows that means his college career is going to last more than 15 minutes. But it also means that Butch might have learned from the ill-advised decisions made the past two springs by former Michigan State guard Marcus Taylor and ex-Minnesota big man Rick Rickert. Both of those players entered the NBA draft before they were ready. You won't find either of those players on a NBA roster right now.

Butch said the idea of him redshirting was discussed both during the recruiting process and again when he signed his letter of intent. Still pondering his decision, Butch sat out the Badgers exhibition opener before making his decision and calling Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan on Sunday night. Ryan told reporters that it took guts for Butch to make the decision.

Butch realized that if Mike Wilkinson -- a good college player, but certainly not an All-American -- could kick his butt in practice every day, he had work to do. He also knows how much a redshirt season has helped Wilkinson in his development.

"Going through practice and seeing how your body reacts, I though this would be the best thing for me for the long run," Butch told Wisconsin reporters after practice Tuesday.

"I had to do what I thought was right for myself and the team at this level. This will allow me to develop physically and get stronger and put me in better position to help the team in the long run."

For the Badgers, a program that has won back-to-back Big Ten titles, Butch's decision leaves Wisconsin with less depth in the middle. But it also doesn't take the Badgers off of a list of teams that can win the Big Ten

In addition to Wilkinson (10.2 ppg, 6.8 apg last season), Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan still has Dave Mader back and improved from a year ago. The Badgers also added junior college transfer Zach Morley, who averaged 24 minutes per game in Wisconsin's two exhibition victories.

Small forward Alando Tucker is still out with a broken foot, but the Badgers are hopeful he'll be back by mid-December. He should certainly be back by the beginning of Big Ten play.

Regardless of what happens, Butch doesn't see a scenario in which he gives up his redshirt and plays this season.

"No, the decision is made for the long-term effect," Butch said. "When you make a decision like that, that's why it took so long because you are thinking of the long term. As far as this decision, we are going to stick with it. I'm definitely looking past this already. I made the decision, and it's time to look forward to the future."

That, especially for a highly touted college freshman, is quite a revelation.

Games to Watch
Wisconsin vs. Pennsylvania
Friday

After playing Temple in past seasons, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan -- a Philly guy -- wanted to play another game near his home. He'll get an interesting one against the always well-coached Quakers. Next season the Badgers will play at Rutgers.
Eastern Washington at Oklahoma
Friday

This marks the debut of Sooners freshman point guard Drew Lavender. The 5-6 point guard scored 21 points in an exhibition victory over Athletes First. Eastern Washington has a hot coach in Ray Giacoletti.
Oakland at Michigan
Friday

The Grizzlies have played three games -- including a road game at Xavier. This is Michigan's opener. Tommy Amaker's Wolverines have more talent, but Oakland's game experience this season will be an advantage. Could it be enough?
Interesting start

A year ago, Ricardo Patton's Colorado basketball program made a big leap. The Buffaloes moved into the upper division of the Big 12 Conference and CU reached the NCAA Tournament.

So why are the Buffs starting this season with a three-game road trip that only a low-major coach can relate to?

Scrambling to find games well into the summer, Colorado's season begins Friday with a game at Northwestern. Instead of going back to Boulder afterwards, the Buffs will be off to the Los Angeles area. There, Patton's team will play games at Pepperdine (Monday) and Cal Poly (Wednesday) before returning to the Coors Events Center.

By the time the road trip is over, the Buffaloes will have logged nearly 3,500 air miles and played three games in six games. It also isn't out of the realm of possibilities that Colorado will return home with a blemish on its record.

While none of the three teams are exactly top-25 material, all three are dangerous. Last season, Northwestern defeated both Indiana and Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena, and 'Cats coach Bill Carmody returns a solid backcourt of Jitim Young and T.J. Paker. Pepperdine is picked behind only Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference and Cal Poly reached the Big West title game last season.

In addition, the Buffs haven't proven themselves to be close to the same team on the road as they've been at home. Last season, Colorado lost only one game in Boulder -- to Georgia on a half-court shot at the buzzer -- but they were 3-9 in true road games.

Eye-opening Oakland

Based on the Dell BCA Classic, it isn't outrageous to label Oakland as the favorites in the Mid-Continent Conference. Before losing at Xavier in the tournament's championship game, the Grizzlies from suburban Detroit (not the Bay Area) defeated a San Diego squad that reached last season's NCAA Tournament and an Illinois-Chicago team that is favored to win the Horizon League this season.

While Oakland guard Mike Helms receives much of the attention after averaging 26.9 points per game last season and reaching the 30-point mark on 14 occasions, Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe has a nice starting five. Iowa transfer Courtney Scott has gained weight inside and is difficult to move at 260 points. Rawle Marshall, who started his career at Ball State, averaged 19.7 points per game in the three games in Cincinnati.

Oakland did fall by 10 to Xavier, but the Grizzlies have three more chances before the end of the month to take down a big name program. Oakland plays at Michigan on Friday and at Cincinnati on Nov. 24. The Grizzlies then get a home game against Missouri on Nov. 29.

Around the Midwest

  • Speaking of Missouri, Tigers coach Quin Snyder has determined that he's going to need a little more depth in the backcourt. The original plan was for Tigers freshman Spencer Laurie -- the Missouri Mr. Basketball last season at Springfield Kickapoo -- to redshirt. That changed when junior college transfer Randy Pulley was held out of games.

    Pulley did not play in either of the Tigers exhibition games because the school is reviewing his transcript from Barton County (Kansas) Community College. Laurie did not play in the Tigers first exhibition game, but he did play this week in Missouri's second exhibition. That action made Laurie ineligible to redshirt this season.

  • Already one of the most successful mid-major programs in recent years, Creighton can now make a new claim. The Bluejays now have one of the nicest arenas of any mid-major school and they can argue that Qwest Center Omaha is right up there with any facility in all of college basketball.

    The Bluejays will play their first game at Qwest Center Omaha -- a $291 million facility in downtown Omaha -- on Saturday against San Diego. When the Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks played an exhibition game there, players and coaches on both teams talked of how the facility had the feel of an NBA arena.

    The 15,500-seat building, which Creighton shares with the Nebraska-Omaha hockey program, has been selected to host the NCAA volleyball Final Four in 2006. The building will also attempt to attract NCAA basketball tournament games.

    If there is a concern for Creighton it is about the size of the building. Is it too big? Can the Bluejays attract enough fans to keep the arena from feeling empty?

  • Illinois coach Bruce Weber certainly isn't fooling around with his players. Weber suspended three players for early-season games. Junior Luther Head, a projected starter, and redshirt freshman Aaron Spears will both miss the first two games of the season in addition to already missing a pair of exhibitions. Freshman Richard McBride will miss the first four games of the season.

    Head and Spears will miss games against Western Illinois and Mercer. McBride will miss both of those games in addition to games at Temple and against North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

    Quote to Note

    "Probably the guy I'm most upset with is Mike Krzyzewski. I don't know what he did to make him want to come home. I'm really upset about that."
    -- Missouri-Kansas City coach Rick Zvosec after former Duke signee and current Minnesota freshman scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against the Kangaroos in the first round of the Preseason NIT.

    Jeff Shelman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (www.startribune.com) is a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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