Column: Replacement vital to team’s success

The Butler men’s basketball team will be facing Atlantic 10 Conference competition for the first time this season without junior guard Chrishawn Hopkins.

Hopkins, who was dismissed from the team on Wednesday, Sept. 12, was expected to grow into more of a leadership role and be a force on the court for the Bulldogs this season.

With the loss of Hopkins, Butler loses a starter from last year’s squad.

The shooting guard played in all 37 contests last season, starting 24 of them. He averaged 9.1 points per game, good enough for third on the team.

The question now is: where does Butler go from here?

If this year’s team could afford to lose a player at any position, it would be in the backcourt. The 2012-13 version of the Bulldogs features plenty of backcourt depth. Stevens now will have an easier time giving players the minutes they need to improve.

Senior transfer Rotnei Clarke is already penciled in as the starter at point guard, replacing Ronald Nored. Hopkins probably would have started at the shooting guard position, but that spot is now vacant.

A platoon of players will step into that role for the team this season.

Sophomore guard Jackson Aldridge figures to play a more prominent role in the season. His playing time decreased down the stretch last season, but he should see some minutes early on.

Senior Chase Stigall and sophomores Elliott Kampen and Alex Barlow could also fight for time.

Stigall is a reliable defender and also is very familiar with Stevens’ offensive and defensive systems, having played in them for three years.

Kampen and Barlow, both walk-ons last season, saw important minutes down the stretch last year, leading me to believe that Stevens trusts them in important situations.

Butler’s three newcomers, Kellen Dunham, Devontae Morgan and Chris Harrison-Docks, all could see time at Hopkins’ position as well.

The 6’6” Dunham might see the most. While only a freshman, he proved himself a good shooter in his high school career.

Pair Dunham’s shooting skills with those of Clarke, and Butler could light up some Atlantic 10 scoreboards this season.

However, Dunham will need to show he is a capable defender as well, something not easily learned in Stevens’ complex system.

The rest of the starting lineup seems fairly predictable.

Senior Andrew Smith will anchor the Bulldogs in the paint.

Junior Khyle Marshall will bring athleticism to court, something the team will be lacking with the loss of Hopkins, and sophomore Roosevelt Jones looks to build off a strong freshman season.

Jones has an interesting skill set. While not the best shooter, he proved last year that he has the strength and stamina to play in the paint, as well as the athleticism and ball-handling skills to run the offense from time to time.

Whichever direction Stevens and the team decide to go, replacing Hopkins will not be easy, especially when joining one of the best college basketball conferences in the country this season.

Some might think the team will play better without Hopkins. They may say that the junior never truly fit into the offensive system the team was trying to run.

But that ability to create shots for himself was what made him so valuable to the program.

Though there’s still a month until practice officially starts, the Butler basketball team is making headlines.

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