Senior night can be an evening with a very unusual vibe. For teams like Butler who choose to honor their seniors after the game, there's a strange pressure throughout the night to avoid losing the game and ruining the festivities. Fortunately for the home team, there was little drama of that sort here against the UIC Flames.
Butler jumped out to a 13-3 lead after six minutes of play, and kept the lead well into double digits for almost all of the rest of the game. They shot the ball well (an un-Butler-like 48% from the field, and 90% from the line), and played their usual stifling defense. A halftime lead of 32-22 was stretched out to 50-30, and the victory basically was ensured.
Late in the second half, after seniors Ronald Nored and Garrett Butcher went on a two-man 10-2 run to build the lead up to 67-40, Coach Brad Stevens called a timeout and took them out of the game to a thunderous ovation from the home crowd. Enough with the basketball - we've got seniors to celebrate!
During his high school career, Garrett Butcher's play led many to believe that he would be a tremendous player in college. His accomplishments were numerous: third-team All-State as a sophomore, second-team All-State as a junior, first-team All-State as a senior; top ten in the state in scoring as both a junior and a senior; all-time leading scorer and second all-time leading rebounder in the history of Monroe County (Indiana).
In just the second game of his Butler career, Butcher came off the bench to knock down three three-pointers in just ten minutes of action, and his nine points equaled Butler's margin of victory over Ball State. Soon thereafter, an illness and then knee problems limited his minutes, and those knee troubles would continue to plague him for the rest of his career. Eventually, the amount of time he'd be able to spend in practice would fade, and if he played several minutes on a game on Thursday, he wouldn't be able to do much in Saturday's game. Sadly, the nine-point game he had in his second game as a freshman remains his career high.
But do not think that his contributions to his team have been insignificant. Last March, in the Horizon League championship game, Butler played at Milwaukee as the #2 seed, against a team that swept them in the regular season. Butcher played extended minutes against long-time Bulldog nemesis Anthony Hill, and never let him get comfortable within the Panther offense. Butler won handily, and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
In the first game of the tournament, Old Dominion's Frank Hassell caused Andrew Smith and Matt Howard to get into significant foul trouble, and Butcher was summoned to duty again. He had six points and six rebounds in thirteen minutes, and his defense on Hassell kept Butler alive for a dramatic finish to their opening-round win.
For those of us who have followed Butler closely over the past few years, we can't help but think back over several "what if" scenarios. This isn't necessarily an exercise that promotes good mental health, but it's hard to resist doing. For me, the biggest "what if" is what might have been had Garrett Butcher stayed healthy throughout his college career.
Farewell, "Butch," and thank you for all that you've gone through over the past four years.
In contrast to Butcher, I didn't really know anything about the guard from Alabama who was a late addition to the Butler recruiting class four years ago. I'd heard that he originally had committed to Western Kentucky, but then requested his release after Coach Darrin Horn left for South Carolina after their successful 2007-08 season. Ronald Nored wouldn't remain an unknown for long.
In his freshman season, Butler usually started a junior, a sophomore, and three freshmen, with the bulk of the minutes from the bench also going to underclassmen. Nored stepped into that leadership vacuum and filled the void perfectly. He became the on-court leader immediately.
Over the years, some other guards surely have handled the ball better, and many other guards have been more successful at putting the ball into the basket, but very few if any have worked harder and more successfully driven himself and his teammates to get the most of their abilities. Throughout his career, he's been widely recognized as one of the top defenders in the Horizon League, and his success in that regard is a function of his effort. This picture, taken after Butler's win over Murray State in the 2010 tournament, perfectly captures the passion that Nored brings to the court.
Off the court, Nored has been just as dynamic. Within days of stepping onto campus, he ran for, and was elected to, freshman class president. Pity the poor soul who thought it a good idea to run against him. He's been a very prominent student in the College of Education, a new student guide, and a highly enthusiastic student teacher. In the summer, he coached an AAU team and took a mission trip to Nicaragua. He also was recently named a second-team Academic All-American. His leadership, enthusiasm, confidence, and commitment to service have been a shining example for not only his teammates and classmates, but for everyone who has crossed paths with him.
Ronald Nored Sr. was pastor of the Bethel AME Church in Birmingham's Ensley community from 1987 through 2003. Nored Sr. was co-founder and executive director of Bethel-Ensley Action Task, Inc. (BEAT), a community redevelopment model that served to revitalize Ensley's neighborhoods. Through these efforts, Nored Sr. was awarded Birmingham's Citizen of the Year and the Martin Luther King Jr. American Dream Award. Rev. Nored contracted pancreatic cancer in 2002, and passed away a year later.
The BEAT website contains a tribute to Rev. Nored, which contains a single sentence that beautifully summarizes his impact on their community and their lives. "Ron was that special kind of person that could engage, challenge, lead, and teach, all while making those around him want to get further involved with whatever it was that he was teaching, challenging, or leading you towards."
Ronald Nored Jr. is certainly his father's son.
at BUTLER 69, ILLINOIS-CHICAGO 44 02/21/2012
ILLINOIS-CHICAGO 8-19 (3-13) -- H. Humes 3-9 0-0 6; G. Talton 6-11 0-0 13; D. Barnes 0-7 0-0 0; M. Brown 2-6 2-2 7; D. Williams 4-9 3-5 11; S. Sutter 1-5 0-0 2; P. Carter 0-1 1-2 1; M. Bush 0-1 0-0 0; W. Simonton 0-1 2-4 2; G. Travis 0-0 0-0 0; A. Fells 1-1 0-0 2; R. Robinson 0-0 0-0 0; A. Kelley 0-0 0-0 0; D. Tyler 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-52 8-13 44. BUTLER 18-12 (11-6) -- R. Nored 3-6 6-6 12; R. Jones 6-10 1-1 13; C. Hopkins 2-5 5-5 10; K. Woods 3-4 0-0 6; C. Stigall 0-4 0-0 0; K. Marshall 4-6 1-2 9; E. Fromm 1-3 1-2 3; A. Smith 5-7 0-0 10; G. Butcher 1-4 2-2 4; J. Aldridge 0-1 2-2 2; A. Barlow 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-1 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-52 18-20 69.
Three-point goals: UIC 2-18 (D. Barnes 0-5; M. Bush 0-1; H. Humes 0-4; M. Brown 1-3; S. Sutter 0-1; G. Talton 1-4), BUTL 1-11 (C. Stigall 0-4; E. Fromm 0-1; C. Hopkins 1-3; K. Marshall 0-1; J. Aldridge 0-1; E. Kampen 0-1); Rebounds: UIC 24 (D. Williams 6), BUTL 31 (R. Jones 10); Assists: UIC 6 (D. Barnes 1), BUTL 14 (R. Nored 8); Total Fouls -- UIC 18, BUTL 19; Fouled Out: UIC-None; BUTL-None.