Wednesday, February 21, 2001

XU's Butler happy in small role

He slimmed down to prove worth off bench

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Xavier's “bench play” is a near-oxymoron. Most of the bench doesn't play.

        The top six Musketeers — the starters and guard Lionel Chalmers — have scored 95 percent of XU's points in Atlantic 10 play.

  • When: 7:30 p.m. today.
  • Where: Cintas Center (10,250).
  • Records: XU 19-5 (10-3 A-10), SBU 15-9 (6-6).
  • TV: Ch.64.
  • Radio: WKRC-AM (550)
  Kevin Houston-6-4-Sr.-18.8
  Vidal Massiah-6-6-Jr.-8.4
  Quadir Habeeb-6-8-Fr.-2.3
  J.R. Bremer-6-2-Jr.-16.1
  James Hayden-6-3-Sr.-2.1
  Coach: Jim Baron (129-128, ninth year; 203-199 overall)
  Lloyd Price-6-5-Jr.-8.9
  Kevin Frey-6-8-Jr.-11.5
  David West-6-8-So.-17.8
  Romain Sato-6-4-Fr.-11.3
  Maurice McAfee-6-0-Sr.-9.7
  Coach: Skip Prosser (146-62, seventh year; 163-75 overall)
  • 2: Average margin of defeat in XU's two losses to SBU last season.
  • 38.0: SBU's 3-point percentage, best in the A-10.
  • 45.6: SBU's defensive field-goal percentage, 10th of 11 teams in the A-10.
        But there is one more Musketeer who matters: Reggie Butler. Though the 6-foot-10, 260-pound center always has been an odd fit in a traditionally up-tempo offense, he has developed into XU's only reliable inside sub.

        “We wouldn't have 19 wins without him,” coach Skip Prosser said.

        Butler's five-year XU career has seen him transform from curiosity to cult favorite to contributor. When he, Maurice McAfee and Marcus Mason are honored tonight in Senior Night festivities before XU's home finale with St. Bonaventure, the fans may laud Butler loudest.

        “His story is one the fans have come to appreciate,” XU strength coach Dave Armstrong said. “Everyone knows how hard he has worked.”

        The quick summary: Butler weighed 300 pounds and had 33 percent body fat when he arrived in the fall of 1996. He redshirted his first season and began lifting weights four days a week and conditioning five days a week.

        He dropped to 21 percent body fat. He's such a weight-room fixture that when Armstrong can't run a basketball workout, he puts Butler in charge. Armstrong keeps Butler's “before” photo in the weight room to inspire other XU athletes.

        “My experience has just been about learning to make the best of what you have,” Butler said.

        And proving something.

        “People at home (in Michigan) were saying: "You shouldn't have gone there. You don't fit into that system.' That's one of the reasons I insisted on making myself a contributor on this team.”

        This is the first season in which Butler has played every game, and his previous high averages were 1.7 points and 7.5 minutes.

        Butler spent the past two summers at Pete Newell's Big Man Camp in Hawaii and also attending a weeklong workout last summer run by Portland Trail Blazers assistant Tim Grgurich.

        “Reg hasn't had, in terms of playing time or accolades, a lot of positive reinforcement,” Prosser said. “Most guys would think: "Why should I spend extra time working out, why should I go to Hawaii, why should I monitor my weight? I'm not getting any reward.'

        “He's always been accepting of his role, and that's one of the reasons he's so respected by his teammates.”

        Those teammates made him a co-captain this season. Butler has averaged 11.8 minutes, 2.8 points and 2.3 rebounds, and his 16 blocks are second-most on the team.

        Prosser has always used just seven or eight players regularly. It's hard to suggest that has hurt XU, with one unfortunate exception: when Prosser suspended Dewaun Rose and Pete Sears, leaving XU shorthanded in a 1995 NCAA Tournament loss to Georgetown.

        With seven about Prosser's minimum, that's where Butler's minutes become invaluable. Besides him, XU has no experienced reserves to spell David West or Kevin Frey.

        “He's an inside presence we can rely on,” Prosser said. “He's been the best fit for this role.”



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