Welcome to the Team: Men’s basketball transfer edition

Graduate transfer Manny Bates looks onto the court during the blue-white scrimmage on Oct. 8. Photo by Claire Runkel.

JIA SKRUDLAND | SPORTS REPORTER | jskrudland@butler.edu 

‘Welcome to the Team’ is a Q&A series where the Collegian sits down with first-year student-athletes who are entering their first season at Butler University. This week, the Collegian will focus on transfer student-athletes for our special basketball issue. These articles will address why they chose Butler, what they hope to get out of this season and some personal tidbits that you won’t find anywhere else. 

This week, sports reporter Jia Skrudland sat down with three transfers who are playing for Butler’s men’s basketball team. Jalen Thomas, Manny Bates and Ali Ali are all eager to play for the Bulldogs under Thad Matta’s direction. 



Jalen Thomas transferred from Georgia State where he played three seasons for the Panthers. At Butler, he is studying business economics. Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics.

Jia Skrudland: What drew you to Butler basketball throughout your time in the transfer portal?

Jalen Thomas: Butler, they were talking to me consistently every single day. And I love the coaching staff. Coach Matta, I know what he’s done in the past. And everybody else, you know, Greg Oden and John Diebler and other coaches, it was a great culture around here. I know they used to winning, so I was on board with it from the beginning.

JS: What excites you the most about playing in the Big East Conference? 

JT: The competition, you know, day in and day out, every game is gonna be a good bump and I need that to push me. 

JS: As a transfer, what are you hoping to bring to the team? 

JT: Hoping to bring my physicality and versatility, ability to make shots in a court, guard every position one through five. 

JS: You transferred from Georgia State, which is located in another big city of Atlanta. What differences or similarities have you noticed between Indianapolis and Atlanta? 

JT: It’s definitely different. Being in Atlanta, it was hot there. It’s pretty hot all year, there’s no snow. Here it’s been pretty cold the last week or so. I’m closer to home here, so I’m used to it. I’m from Michigan, so I’m used to it already. 

JS:  What’s it been like being coached by Matta? 

JT: It’s good. He’s a great guy, you know, everything I expected. He’s very humble. He doesn’t yell much, and I love being around him. 

JS: I read that your dad, grandfather and uncle all play college basketball. How have they impacted your game and love for the sport? 

JT: Yeah, they definitely gave me the ability to play the game and you know, got my height from all of them being 6’10, they’re all 6’10, 6’8, so they gave me that for sure. 

JS: You’re one of the transfers on the team that’s played in the NCAA Tournament. How can you use that experience to help the team make it this season? 

JT: It was a great experience making it to the tournament last year. I think I can bring that to the team [and] help them get there. I know what it takes to win and what it takes to be a great team so you know [I’m] hoping to bring that to the team. 

JS: Do you have any superstitions before a game? 

JT: Superstitions. Not really, just mainly got to wear two pairs of socks every game. 

JS: What college or professional basketball team do you think has the best jerseys and why? 

JT: Best jerseys. I’m going to say Butler because I’m here, and we got the best jerseys. 

JS: What’s an unpopular opinion of yours that you have about the NBA?

 JT: I think that the NBA is way easier than college, I guess. It’s much more spacing. It’s easier to play one-on-one. 



Manny Bates transferred from North Carolina State where he played two full seasons for the Wolfpack and has up to two years of eligibility remaining. At Butler, he is studying strategic communication as a graduate student. Photo by Claire Runkel.

Jia Skrudland: What drew you to Butler basketball throughout your time in the transfer portal? 

Manny Bates: Just being in conversations with Coach Matta. Coach Pegues, I’ve known him since I was in high school, so I had a connection with him. … building something special here, and I just want to be a part of it. 

JS: What excites you the most about playing in the Big East Conference? 

MB: I love the competition all the time. Great cities we’re traveling to every single time, so I’m excited for the traveling. 

JS: As a transfer, what are you hoping to bring to the team? 

MB: Um since I’m the old guy, my veteran of leadership. I can teach my young guys the ropes a little bit. Just like that older role pretty much. 

JS: What was the transfer portal like for you coming back from the injury that caused you to be out last year? 

MB: Surprising actually. I didn’t realize I was getting as many calls as I did. So it was kind of humbling. But you know, I’m glad I wasn’t in there as long as I thought I would be. 

JS:  So you redshirted your freshman season at NC State due to another injury, so what things did you work on during your rehab to get back to 100%? 

MB: Really, just range of motions towards getting my arm back to feeling normal again. That’s really it, just like feeling myself again, instead of feeling robotic. 

JS: At NC State, you had a plethora of blocks, so how do you practice blocks considering it’s more of a reactive skill versus proactive skill? 

MB: I do not practice blocks. It’s all instincts. 

JS: You partnered with the Indianapolis organization A Kid Again. What made you choose that organization? 

MB: I love kids. Simple as that. Love being around young kids. I want to do something with kids after basketball, work with kids, so that was the perfect opportunity. 

JS: What’s one trend you wish that never started? 

MB: Ooh what trend. Oh my god. I don’t know a trend I don’t like. Yeah. That little TikTok dance where you move your hips like that. That’s terrible. 

JS: What’s a fun fact about yourself? 

MB:  I draw and play the piano. 

JS: What songs are on your pregame playlist? 

MB: “Dreams and Nightmares” is a go to. A lot of DaBaby, Montana of 300. Just really aggressive, gotta get my mind right for the game. 



Ali Ali (24) transferred from the University of Akron, where he helped lead the Zips to a 24-10 overall record and a NCAA Tournament bid. Ali, an Indiana native, is a senior and studies sociology. Photo by Claire Runkel.

Jia Skudland: What’s your relationship with the coaches and players been like so far? 

Ali Ali: It’s been good. I was already kind of familiar with some of the players, and then kind of had connections with people I know and the coaches. So that always helps make the transfer process a little bit easier, so it’s been good. 

JS: What’s one word you use to describe Coach Matta? 

AA: Awesome … I would just say he just represents “The Butler Way.” He does everything right, and he has good energy, and he doesn’t do bad days. So him and the coaching staff’s energy, that definitely helps us. 

JS: What about playing in Hinkle are you most excited about? 

AA: Seeing Hinkle packed, for sure. I mean, I haven’t seen a Butler game since I was honestly like a kid … Gordon Hayward and them playing and me watching it with my family at home and stuff like that. So just hearing about how the crowds have been the past few years even without them being that successful … I think this year we got a chance to do some really special things. I know the fans in the community are excited. 

JS: Who is your favorite NBA team and NBA player? 

AA: Right now, I’d probably say the Charlotte Hornets because I like LaMelo Ball. LaMelo, KD and Kobe are my top three [favorite players]. 

JS: What is your favorite movie or TV show? 

AA: My favorite movies are [“The Hangover” series]. Favorite TV show is probably “The Office,” I don’t really watch too much TV. 


Related posts