By Bethany Werge
All true dynasties in sports require the passing of the torch. Butler’s men’s basketball program is no different.
After the loss of six players – including three of the top four scorers from last season – and the entrance of seven new athletes, it is difficult to predict which players will emerge in the upcoming season.
But like the rotation in any sport, the veterans will have to bring out new standouts.
“The bottom line is, get better every day,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “But the guys that have been there and done that will certainly be counted on and that will start with [seniors] Ronald [Nored] and Garrett [Butcher].”
Nored, a 6-foot guard, will be depended on for more than just managing the offensive tempo. He finally made it to unofficial team work outs this summer, something he’s been unable to do the past few years because of a persistent injury.
“I feel like it’s the best I’ve played my whole life,” Nored said. “This being my senior year, and a year where I’ve been able to workout, I’m really excited about being able to get going.”
With a whole new cast of characters to mesh together, every moment that can be spent together is vital.
“In our preseason workouts, I think we’ve done a really good job in the way we’ve worked together,” Nored said. “That’s encouraging because with six new people, you never know how long that’s going take. But it’s good that it’s already happening.”
The Bulldogs welcome six freshmen, all of whom will be looked at to make an impact this year.
More than half of the new freshmen were members of various all-star teams, and one, Jackson Aldridge, was a member of Australia’s national team.
But the freshmen aren’t the only ones under pressure.
Junior center Andrew Smith returns with the second-highest playing time of returning players, behind Nored, and the highest number of field goals made last year out of all the returning players.
As an upperclassman, he will be looked to for much of the leadership needed on a team made up of mostly of underclassmen.
“[Smith]’s going to be important for us,” Nored said. “He’s going to be one of the best, if not the best, big man in our whole league. He’s worked really hard this summer, and we trust him to be good.”
Also hoping for big minutes this season are sophomores Khyle Marshall, Erik Fromm and Chrishawn Hopkins, who are three of the most improved players from last season, according to Stevens.
“It’s a good class,” Stevens said. “There are a lot of good experiences from those three.
“Khyle [Marshall] played a lot, had really good moments his freshman year, and got some good experience this summer. And I think Chrishawn [Hopkins] and Erik [Fromm] are both very improved and will definitely vie for playing time.”
Marshall, Fromm and Hopkins, like their teammates, have already been making an impact this season through their work ethic in the gym.
“We’re a good example of how caring about the team more than yourself gets you places,” said Fromm. “I’m a firm believer that if you keep working hard and keep your mind in the right place, good things will happen.”
Marshall in particular is no stranger to that philosophy.
This past summer, he was on the U19 national team, representing the United States at the World University Games.
“It was a great honor,” Marshall said. “It definitely gave me confidence coming into this season.
“I’m looking to start, but you can’t really worry about that. It’s about doing whatever it takes for us to win.”
The continuing legacy is one that does not stem from individual success but team success. How high Butler will climb this season will depend heavily on how certain players do.
But whoever the individuals are, the real test will be how they play together as a team, because the only way to get to the lighting of the torch is by passing it.