October 15, 2009

Bulldogs Begin Men’s Basketball Practice

There won’t be any “Midnight Madness,” “Fall Frenzy,” or Halloween Hoopla,” when the Butler men’s basketball team takes the court for its first basketball practice on Friday, Oct. 16.  But there will be a healthy dose of lofty expectations.

Butler head coach Brad Stevens returns his entire squad from a year ago, when the Bulldogs rolled up a 26-6 campaign, a regular season championship in the Horizon League and a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.  Butler was ranked in the “Top 25” of the national polls for 12 consecutive weeks, reaching as high as No. 11!

The team’s 26 wins tied the fourth-highest single season total in Butler basketball history, and the squad’s 15 Horizon League wins were the second-most ever by a Butler team.  Only 10 teams in the nation had a better winning percentage than Butler’s .813 mark, and only five teams had fewer losses.

Those credentials have stirred excitement among Butler fans and considerable attention from national basketball writers and publications.  The Bulldogs have been ranked in the “Top 25” of virtually every preseason basketball publication, and Butler players are showing up on many of the preseason All-America teams.

Stevens appreciates the recognition, but his first order of business is getting this year’s squad ready for one of the strongest schedules a Butler team has faced in recent years.  Butler will face non-league opponents Ohio State, Georgetown, Xavier, Davidson, Minnesota, Northwestern, UAB, Evansville and Ball State, as well as an 18-game Horizon League slate.

“We’re excited to get on the court and get to work to become the best basketball team we can be,” said Stevens, the reigning Horizon League Coach of the Year.  “It’s nice to receive recognition, but that’s based on the past and it doesn’t change our approach or the way we prepare each day.  Our goal remains the same - we want to get better each day.”

The Bulldogs will begin preseason practice with a 15-player roster, led by 2008-09 Horizon League Player of the Year Matt Howard.  Also on hand will be sophomores Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack, both coming off a gold medal-winning performance on the USA U19 World Championship team.  Hayward was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year last season, while Mack was named to the league’s All-Newcomer Team.  Senior forward Willie Veasley and sophomore guard Ronald Nored are Butler’s other returning starters.

Butler’s roster will have three newcomers, though two - redshirt freshmen Chase Stigall and Emerson Kampen - practiced all of last season with the team.  The lone true newcomer is 6-11 freshman Andrew Smith of Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis.

The Bulldogs will begin with a single practice on Friday (Oct. 16) and then have morning and afternoon workouts on Saturday (Oct. 17).  The team’s fourth practice will be on Sunday (Oct. 18).