The Bulldogs get ready to start the season with a new lineup, a new conference and new competition.
The Butler men’s basketball team looks to build off last year’s experiences as it heads into its first season in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Bulldogs enter the A-10 after going 22-15, including 11-7 in the Horizon League, last season. The season ended with a loss to Pittsburgh in the College Basketball Invitational semifinals.
The team lost only two seniors, Ronald Nored and Garrett Butcher, to graduation. The team also will be without Chrishawn Hopkins after he was dismissed by the team for violating team rules in September.
Coach Brad Stevens said the player that will fill Hopkins’ role in the backcourt has not yet been decided.
“It’ll be determined largely on who’s the most productive but also who compliments our best players the best,” Stevens said.
One thing is known: senior guard Rotnei Clarke will join the starting lineup after sitting out last season following his transfer from Arkansas.
Clarke adds outside shooting to a team that was lacking in that department last season.
“The guy is, by far, one of the best three-point shooters in the country,” junior forward Khyle Marshall said. “I’ve never seen a guy shoot like him.”
Clarke shot 43.8 percent from three-point range and averaged 15.2 points per game during the 2010-11 season for the Razorbacks.
Meanwhile, the team’s six sophomores now have a season of experience to help them as they begin to take bigger roles with the team.
“I know when I got here last year along with the other freshmen, the game just seemed pretty fast because it’s different than the high school game,” sophomore guard Alex Barlow said. “And just having to take on more of a leadership role being here for a year, you want to try to help the freshmen.”
The freshmen have been trying to accustom themselves to balancing classes with athletics since practice started Oct. 12.
“When you start college basketball practice, it’s like adding a 400-level class that meets six days a week for two-plus hours a day with older, more established people in that program that you’re competing against for time,” Stevens said.
A new NCAA rule has also helped with the development of the freshmen.
“I definitely think that, with the new college rule where coaches were allowed to work with players this summer, [it] definitely put them ahead of what most of us were our freshman year because they were introduced to the system at an earlier time,” Marshall said.
Barlow said the newcomers are picking up Butler’s system well.
“They’re all learning and asking a bunch of questions, which is good,” Barlow said. “It shows they want to learn, they want to know what they’re doing wrong, what they’re doing right.”
The Bulldogs begin a stretch of two exhibition games at home Saturday against Marian, which is coached by former Butler coach Todd Lickliter.
Stevens said it is not enjoyable for him to coach against a former boss and friend like Lickliter.
“Outside of my parents and my family, there hasn’t been anybody that’s been more meaningful to me personally for what they’ve done— for the support they have given me—both by hiring me and then bringing me along, and then ever since they’ve left,” Stevens said. “I can’t say enough great things about coach Lickliter. It’s going to be great to have him back in Hinkle.”