Da'Sean Butler Making Most of D-League Opportunity - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Da'Sean Butler Making Most of D-League Opportunity


March approaches and evokes memories of one of the greatest stretches in WVU basketball history that took place just two seasons ago.

As West Virginia fights its way through a tough skid in recent weeks it may seem like a long time ago that Da'Sean Butler was leading the Mountaineers through Madison Square Garden and all the way to Indianapolis.

But imagine how long it must feel for Butler himself, who spent much of the time since that run trying to get back to the point where he could play the game he loved at all, much less in an organized setting with a paycheck to follow.

Following the knee injury that closed his college career in devastating fashion, Butler has done all he can to prove that he can hang with the professionals.

Originally drafted by the Miami Heat and finishing his rookie year with a stint in the NBA D-League for the Austin Toros, WVU's third all-time leading scorer went an entire season without playing a single minute of basketball.

When he didn't stick with the San Antonio Spurs, he went back to the Toros, a free agent looking to make a splash at a lower level and turn heads up in the association. Really, though, he just wanted to be able to get back to doing what he loves.

"It's great to be playing again," Butler said before a recent game against the Canton Charge. "That's the most important thing to me. I had a year and a half to watch when I was with the Heat and with the Spurs and coming down here [Austin] a little bit and watching them play then going back to the Spurs. I had a long time to watch and now getting the change to play – I just want to make the most of my situation."

Butler joined with the Toros 10 games into their season and it took him just eight appearances to show head coach Brad Jones that he was worthy of a place in his starting five.

"Just seeing how I adapted to the team. It was that kind of situation," says Butler. "It took some time for me to get adjusted to the team but I needed to do what the team needed from me."

For the past 11 games, all starts, Butler is averaging 13.7 points and six rebounds.

He is growing more comfortable in his role for Austin and it's evident in watching his on-court demeanor that he is becoming a leader despite being one of the new kids.

When Butler got to the Toros, they were already finding success and leading the Western Conference. Now their record ranks at the top of the entire league and they show no signs of slowing.

Although it may not be the level he wants to play ball at for very long, Butler gets a kick out of the fact that he's playing for a winning team.

"That's a big thing, especially coming from the program I was coming from with the two very competitive and winning coaches I had the chance to play for," Butler says of John Beilein and Bob Huggins at West Virginia. "It is important, so for me to come out here and have a great coach like I do now, we are No. 1 in the league… it has been very nice to be on a winning team."

Butler wears a brace on that left knee as a precautionary measure. He says he can move freely on his leg and has no concerns of it slowing him, but he doesn't want to put himself in a situation where the injury could occur again and effectively end his career.

It would be understandable for a player with such an injury to let it get in his head and make him play differently, but that isn't something you'll soon see happen with Butler.

"I've been doing jump stops a lot more after the accident, but honestly, I just have to go out there and play and if things happen like that again, it's just the way it is and we'll go from there," he says. "I just don't want to think negative. Just go out and play and try to make the best of it."

That mentality is what made Butler so successful in his days in Morgantown. It's what propelled him into the starting lineup in Austin and it's what he will use to grab the attention of anyone watching in hopes to land somewhere in the NBA.

For now, he is focused on his team and working toward a playoff run. His chance at a March encore is approaching, and Butler is glad that this time he will be on the court playing rather than watching.

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