Men’s basketball season preview: Thad Matta’s team is ready to compete

Senior forward Jahmyl Telfort transferred from Northeastern and has two seasons of eligibility with the Bulldogs. Photo by Jada Gangazha.



The second year of head coach Thad Matta’s return to Butler basketball has been met with increasing optimism and heightened expectations. After an offseason filled with departures and additions, Bulldogs fans will soon get to see what kind of team Matta has been building. 

Last season, the Bulldogs finished 14-18 overall, posting a 6-14 conference record before bowing out in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Butler struggled to pick up wins away from Hinkle Fieldhouse all year, going 4-12 in games away from their home fortress. In Hinkle, though, the team posted a strong 10-6 record spurred on by a raucous crowd in Indianapolis. The Dawgs finished ninth in the Big East. 

However, the season had some bright spots. Matta got a signature win over 13th-ranked Xavier in a dramatic thriller at Hinkle Fieldhouse, and a victory over Villanova earlier in the season, who regularly proves to be a tough matchup

Since the end of last season, there has been a revolving door for outgoing and incoming players in Hinkle Fieldhouse. After losing nine players to graduation or the transfer portal, Butler reloaded by bringing in seven transfers and four first years to fill the holes. The only returnees for the Bulldogs are sophomore forward Connor Turnbull, fifth-year center Jalen Thomas and graduate center John-Michael Mulloy

For Thomas, this season will be about stepping up to lead this new roster into the Big East gauntlet. The 6’10” big man is excited to start the year healthy after missing time at the beginning of last season, and he is relishing the opportunity to be a leading presence in the locker room. 

“I’m looking forward to the season,” Thomas said. “I’m 100%, and I’m looking forward to competing with my guys. I’m ready to lead these guys and go out there because I know what it takes to win, and I’m happy to be back.” 

Thomas brings a physical presence down low, but he also has experience that will be vital on a newly constructed team. Having experience playing in the Big East goes a long way, especially around other players who have not gone up against that type of competition before. Players like Thomas, Mulloy and senior transfer from St. John’s Posh Alexander will provide experience and direction for the new faces around the locker room. 

The Dawgs have another returner in Turnbull, who gained some valuable minutes as just a first-year last season. He played in 22 of the team’s 32 games, shooting 44% from the field and 47% from three. The forward also added 15 blocks to his statline which finished third on the team. Turnbull talked about coming into the offseason with a newly built team. 

“[This offseason] felt kind of similar to last year, just learning [with] a whole new team,” Turnbull said. “It was easy to adjust last year. Overall, I am just excited to play with all the new guys who I get along with really well.” 

These “new guys” are exactly who coach Matta wanted to find this offseason to fit his mold. The coaching staff attacked the portal to find more players that fit into the team. 

“We felt like we really needed to go out and get more of our guys,” Matta said. “I’m really pleased with the job they’ve done in terms of coming together.” 

One of the guys Matta went out and got was senior forward Jahmyl Telfort. Telfort spent three seasons at Northeastern, where he won the CAA Sixth Man of the Year in 2021 and made the All-Colonial Athletic Association Third Team last season. The 6’7” forward also represented Canada’s U23 team in the 2023 GLOBL JAM event, where the Canadians took home the silver medal. Telfort explained what Matta’s message to the team has been during this offseason. 

“We want to get better every time we step on the court,” Telfort said. “Win the day, win the week was one of his big models, so that’s what we are going to do.” 

Another addition to the team is junior Pierre Brooks II, a transfer from Michigan State. Brooks was a solid role player for the Spartans, ranking seventh on the team last season in scoring and minutes. The 6’6” guard/forward is looking forward to the expanded role that being a Bulldog offers him. 

“We play a whole lot different from where I came from,” Brooks said. “I have a lot more freedom to do what I want with the basketball and a lot more freedom to play. This is one of the best teams I’ve been on, and I haven’t played a game yet.” 

Brooks will return to East Lansing alongside his new teammates to face off against a tough Spartan team on Nov. 17. Following this, the Dawgs will make a quick turnaround to Orlando, Florida to compete in the ESPN Events Invitational alongside Florida Atlantic, Penn State, Texas A&M, Iowa State, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University and Boise State. The team looks forward to using these early tests to prepare for Big East play, which will begin on Dec. 19 versus Georgetown at Hinkle. 

Matta’s new team will compete in two exhibition games before officially starting the season at home on Nov. 6 versus Eastern Michigan. The first exhibition game is Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. versus Ohio Northern at Hinkle. 


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