Butler men’s basketball face unknowns heading into 2017 season

Sophomore Kamar Baldwin dribbles the ball down the floor last season. Baldwin will begin the season as the team’s point guard. Collegian file photo.

ZACH HORRALL | DIGITAL EDITOR | zhorrall@butler.edu

The Butler University men’s basketball team is facing several unknowns and new scenarios as they head into their first exhibition game against Hanover College on Oct. 28.

The most obvious change for the Bulldogs is new head coach LaVall Jordan, who was hired over the summer after Chris Holtmann took the vacant head coaching job at Ohio State University.

Sophomore point guard Kamar Baldwin said Jordan’s presence is a welcome change and a chance him and his teammates to learn through a new style of coaching.

“I feel like he came in with a new style and running a tempo this year, so you know we’ll run a little bit more. I think it helps us as a team as we go. Personality-wise, I’d say he’s calm. Not a big yeller. He’s like a teacher. He can show us things on the court, like how to make passes. He gets in there and shoots around with us a little bit, so it’s been great so far.”

He brings with him a new coaching staff that includes Jeff Meyer, Omar Lowery and Emerson Kampen. Jordan said he is pleasantly surprised with how receptive the team is of him and his staff.

“It’s an extremely coachable group,” Jordan said. “They’re a great group of young men, and they all work really hard. I keep telling them, ‘You might be the most coachable group I’ve been around.’”

This season also welcomes new leadership on the court as senior forwards Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman take on the role passed down by former players such as Kellen Dunham, Roosevelt Jones, Andrew Chrabascz and Tyler Lewis.

Martin knows his team needs strong leaders, and he said he wants to do everything he can to show the young players the ropes.

“I have to [be a leader],” Martin said. “I got a bunch of younger guys looking up to me. We got four freshmen, a lot of sophomores, a lot of juniors. Taking on that leadership role is going to be huge for me and everybody else.”

Wideman is known for being more quiet and letting his work do the talking, but he said that will change this year.

“Honestly I’ve always felt comfortable [being a leader],” he said. “Coach Val has asked me to do that this year, but I won’t go too extra.”

Another change will be seeing Baldwin take the ball down the court. With the graduation of Lewis and Baldwin’s standout performance last season, he is taking over as the team’s go-to point guard.

The change began over the summer as he worked with the coaching staff on the new position.

“I’ve been working all summer changing over,” Baldwin said. “I feel like I’ve done a good job getting to know the plays and to detain the offense. The hardest part I would say [is] knowing when to attack.”

With all the unknowns, expectations are relatively low for the Bulldogs heading into the season. In the preseason Big East poll, Butler was picked eighth. Last year, the team was selected sixth but went on to finish the season 25-9, finish second in the Big East and make it to the Sweet 16.

The team isn’t letting the lack of faith in the team get to them. Martin said he believes the preseason polls are a nice motivational tool, but at the end of the day they don’t matter to him.

“You can use it as motivation and keep working at it, but you can’t let it define us cause it’s only preseason and preseason doesn’t matter,” he said. “It actually matters after the season.”

Butler is known for being the underdog, and that typically is because the team is looked over when heading into the season or tournament play.

Jordan just shrugged off the notion that the team was picked near the bottom of the conference at the team’s media day.

“We were picked eighth? I just think we pay attention to today,” Jordan said. “That’s always been the case here, and we have our own expectations in the locker room. We’re focused on getting better today.”

The Oct. 28 exhibition matchup against Hanover starts at 2 p.m. in Hinkle Fieldhouse. The game is not scheduled to air on TV.

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