Numbers never lie.
This year, the Butler men’s basketball team must replace 42.4 points and 16.6 rebounds per game from departed players Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack, Shawn Vanzant, Grant Leindecker and Alex Anglin—not to mention the intangible benefits of their leadership.
This year’s men’s basketball team boasts seven new faces, six of whom are freshmen.
The other, Rotnei Clarke, is a transfer from Arkansas. Clarke must sit out this year as a transfer before using his final year of eligibility.
Redshirt junior guard Chase Stigall said he was enthusiastic about having a player of Clarke’s caliber joining the team, even if Clarke is not able to play for a year.
“Me, Ron [Nored] and Chrishawn [Hopkins] are going to be chasing him around all of practice, so he is going to make us better every single day,” Stigall said. “We are really excited to have him here.”
Players will need to step up in all areas to fill the void left behind by the graduated seniors and Mack’s departure for the NBA.
No player remains on the team who shot better than 35 percent from behind the 3-point line with at least 15 attempts. That is one weakness the team has been focusing on in offseason sessions.
Second-year forward Khyle Marshall, fresh off a stint on the USA Basketball 19 and Under team, said he has been working with coaches to improve his 3-point shooting.
“Coach [Matt] Graves and I have been shooting 50 threes before every practice,” Marshall said. “It’s definitely something I felt I needed to work on.”
Shooting is not the only thing the team has been focusing on, though.
“We are always conditioning,” Stigall said. “We are always getting up and down.”
The roles of players constantly change each season, and junior forward Andrew Smith said he may see his role change this season with Howard’s departure.
“I don’t think one person is going to fill Howard’s role,” Smith said. “Obviously he was such a great player. We are going to have multiple people step up and fill in where they can.”
Even with so many departed players, the business-as-usual feeling around the team remains the same.
Coach Brad Stevens said he has no plans to let the atmosphere surrounding the team take a turn for the worse because of player departures.
“The first time we go on a road game at Evansville, [the freshmen] are going to find out how hard it is to play college basketball,” Stevens said.
Stevens said he will look for the seniors to teach the new guys about playing expectations at Butler.
“One of the things seniors need to do is to exhibit what you believe are the most important traits of a program,” Stevens said. “Not just as a team, but as a program, those are the things to pass on down the line.”
After the game at Evansville, the Butler upperclassmen will get a chance to display those traits during four consecutive home games, starting Nov. 15 against Tennessee at Chattanooga.
In the end, everyone is wondering how the team plans to expand on recent successes while also teaching newer players about The Butler Way.
“All we have to do is just prepare as a team, have 15 guys on the same page and be ready to play,” Marshall said.