It’s been an eventful offseason for the Butler men’s basketball program. In addition to saying goodbye to four seniors, including leading scorers Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith, the program also saw head coach Brad Stevens leave to take over the same position with the Boston Celtics.
Into his role slides Brandon Miller, who joined Stevens’ staff as an assistant in April (replacing Matthew Graves, who’s now the head coach at South Alabama). And there’s also the small matter of moving from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East.
Taking all of the changes into consideration, this makes for a good offseason for the program to take advantage of the NCAA rule allowing programs to take one offseason trip every four years.
On Saturday the Bulldog travel party will leave Indianapolis for Australia, where they’ll play four exhibition games over the course of 11 days.
That leaves a lot of time for the team, which includes six freshmen (and just two seniors), to not only take in the sights that Australia has to offer but also build stronger relationships according to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star.
“Teammates get to see each other outside of basketball,” Miller said after practice at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday evening. “You’re with everybody the entire trip. They get to see coaches outside of basketball. This is a team building trip, and a trip these guys will remember forever.”
The last time Butler went overseas was just before the start of the 2009-10 season, when that group visited Italy. The hope for this season’s team is that their trip will have a similar effect, as the 2009-10 Bulldogs went on to win 33 games and were mere centimeters away from winning a national title.
Duplicating that feat will be tough however, given not only the production lost from last season’s team but also the program’s new surroundings.
Butler’s schedule now includes programs such as Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova and Xavier (obviously they’re familiar with the Musketeers since they were also in the A-10 last season), and Providence and St. John’s should be formidable as well.
But few had that 2009 reaching the national title game, and this current group doesn’t lack for talent thanks to the return of key contributors such as Roosevelt Jones (10.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 apg), Khyle Marshall (9.6, 4.5) and Kellen Dunham (9.5, 2.8).
Add to that mix a talented crop of freshmen that includes Nolan Berry, Elijah Brown, Rene Castro and Andrew Chrabascz and coach Miller has some solid pieces to work with in 2013-14. How good can Butler be? They’ll take the first step towards finding out when they board the plane on Saturday.