When the Butler Bulldogs lost Gordon Hayward to the NBA after their run to the NCAA title game last spring, the thought was that they surely couldn’t come back and pull off a similar run without a top-ten draft pick like Hayward anchoring their squad. Or, not. Butler picked up the pieces and Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack led them right back, where they lost for a second straight year, this time to Connecticut.
Now, with the 2011-12 season upon is, it begs the same question. With Mack and Howard gone, they surely can’t do it again can they? Coach Brad Stevens is the one constant through it all, and the young coach seems to believe his team will be competitive once again — they have, like always, key veteran role players, and the Bulldogs’ national success has helped lure a few coveted recruits to Indianapolis as well.
Brad Stevens joined WNDE in Indianapolis with Query and Schultz to discuss his expectations heading into another season following a loss in the national championship game, and which players on the Bulldogs squad will be counted on to step in and fill the void left by the departures of Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack.
What are your expectations heading into the season?:
“I think you mentioned a couple of those guys and certainly we’re all thankful for what Matt Howard did, not only for Butler, but for college basketball in general. The way he acted on and off the court is what you’re looking for out of a student-athlete. And Shelvin and Gordon did the same thing while they were in school. If you would have told me that those two guys were going to leave school early to go to the NBA, and this is the team we have, I just really feel fortunate that we have been able to continue to bring in the right guys to not only represent Butler well but to field a team that I think can grow into a pretty darn good basketball team.”
Is there a feeling in the locker room now that the veterans have to bring it and step in for the guys that are gone?:
“There’s no doubt. That’s the way that you’ve got to be. I do think our older guys have improved, which is important. I think that a couple of them are guys that will always have to embrace and be really good in their role. They’ve definitely improved, definitely gotten better and now it’s a matter of how you perform in that role. And there’s one or two guys whose roles may drastically change. … That’s what we’re looking at with our older guys and I’m really excited about their development and I’m excited about their leadership.”