Sunday, August 08, 1999

BASKETBALL INSIDER


Muskies' Butler big man at camp

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In two seasons with the Xavier Musketeers, he has played 191 minutes of basketball. Not even five full games. Who can count the hours of work Reggie Butler put into preparation for this? Who can imagine he'd want to devote even more time to the sport?

        Well, Butler for one.

        After averaging 1.8 points and 1.8 rebounds and accumulating eight times more turnovers than assists last season, he is going about as far as a player can go to improve himself: to Honolulu for Pete Newell's Big Man Camp, Aug.16-22. Those who attend must pay their own expenses and be ready to spend plenty of sweat.

        “To improve footwork and agility — those are the main things right there,” explained Butler, a 6-foot-10, 262-pound redshirt junior. “I think this will help me out for the future. I know he's well respected.”

        He is Pete Newell, an octogenarian, Hall of Fame coach who won an NCAA championship at California and is renowned for his expertise on post players' footwork. He has run this camp for nearly two decades, helping college and pro power players learn techniques to make them more effective.

        Northwestern's Evan Eschmeyer attended last season. On this year's list are UCLA's Dan Gadzuric, Florida recruit Donnell Harvey and two Kentucky Wildcats: 6-11 Jules Camara and 6-10 Jamaal Magloire. “Your confidence always goes up when you're playing with good players,” Butler said.

        Butler developed a reputation for hard work with XU conditioning coach Dave Armstrong. He slimmed down from 287 pounds and 31 percent body fat and now bench-presses 370 pounds.

        Butler will compete for the center job with senior Obi Harris and junior-college recruit Marcus Mason, but last year XU's big men frustrated coach Skip Prosser enough for him to play with 6-6 Aaron Turner in the middle.

        “He wants to play, and he's doing everything within his power to be a factor,” Prosser said of Butler. “I'm really pleased.”

        WHERE'S THE POINT?: Kentucky's plan to restock at point guard may not be developing as the Wildcats hoped. There remains plenty of time before the November signing period, but UK may need some good fortune to avoid the misfortune that struck Kansas a few years back.

        Coach Tubby Smith chose not to recruit point guards last year because the class of 2000 was richer at that position. Among this year's seniors, UK became involved with Omar Cook, Andre Barrett and Taliek Brown of New York; Chris Duhon of Slidell, La.; Adam Boone of Minnetonka, Minn., and Imari Sawyer of Chicago.

        UK is devoting most of its attention to Duhon, although he has been openly enthusiastic about playing for Duke. The Wildcats may be putting themselves in a difficult position if they miss on Duhon.

        In 1996, Kansas chased Baron Davis hard even though logic dictated he'd chose UCLA. Meanwhile, the Jays fiddled with the recruitment of Tony Harris, Kenny Brunner and Khalid El-Amin. They were shut out and still are recovering.

        This week, UK lost Barrett to Seton Hall, which might have been beatable if Kentucky had gone all out. Cook almost certainly will attend North Carolina. Brown leans toward staying closer to home at St.John's or Syracuse. Minnesota became more of a factor with Boone by hiring a new staff including former Saint Louis assistant Derek Thomas, who has worked Boone as hard as anyone.

        The one player who seems wide open is Sawyer, as physically talented as any of the others but also the most volatile. He was among the turnover leaders at the Olympic Development Festival in June and the adidas ABCD Camp last month.

        EASTERN PHILOSOPHY: The Big East gave thought to more than geography in constructing the divisional alignment it probably will adopt when Virginia Tech joins the league in 2001-02.

        Three years ago, Conference USA went along geographical lines in realigning its divisions, with disappointing results. Of seven NCAA bids received since the league went to two divisions, six went to American (north) Division teams.

        The Big East is planning to split into one division comprising Boston College, Connecticut, Miami, Providence, St.John's, Villanova and Virginia Tech; with Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Syracuse and West Virginia would make up the other.

        The first group has a total of 113 NCAA appearances (25 in the 1990s) and 11 Final Four trips. The second has 105 NCAA appearances (26 in the 1990s) and eight Final Fours.

        C-USA demonstrated that an emphasis on geography can damage a league's competitive integrity.

        LEAGUE MATTERS: A Conference USA committee is working on possible changes in the league's format, including divisional alignment. One change the committee has decided to recommend regards the conference tournament.

        In the past two years, the top two teams in each division received first-round byes. That is expected to change to the division winners and the two teams with the next-best records.

       



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