Butler is a team that has a chance to sneak up on a lot of people during the 2012-2013 season.
Brad Stevens has put together a number of quality recruiting classes in a row, and that talent is peaking at the perfect time, as there appears to be a lack of dominant teams heading into the start of the school year.
While Ronald Nored graduates, Butler returns the bulk of their rotation from a season ago, highlighted by a number of players with the size, athleticism and versatility that the Bulldogs thrive on defensively. Where the Bulldogs struggled last season was on the perimeter. More specifically, Butler shot 28% from three last year.
A team from Indiana shot 28% from three.
But the good news — and part of the reason for all the excitement about the Bulldogs — is that they have brought in two of the better shooters in the country in Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham. Dunham is a freshman gunslinger that cracked top 100 lists, a ranking that you don’t often see for Butler’s recruits. But Clarke, a transfer from Arkansas where he once hit 13 three-pointers in a game, could end up being the difference maker.
And, according to an article from Jon Rothstein on Wednesday, it’s not just because of the way he can shoot. Is Clarke going to be Butler’s point guard this season?:
“I don’t just think Rotnei can play point guard, I think he’s a really good point guard,” Stevens said of the 6-foot Clarke, who averaged 15.2 points per game for the Razorbacks during the 2010-11 season. “He makes plays for other people and he can obviously make plays for himself. He’s a difficult guy to guard when it’s all said and done.”
Clarke, who will be Butler’s most seasoned player when the Bulldogs join the Atlantic 10 next season has made major physical alterations to his body during his red shirt year.
“He’s completely different than he was at Arkansas,” Stevens said of Clarke. “Rotnei’s made a huge leap in the weight room. He’s much stronger now. He’s someone who’s always working on his game. He’s in the gym all the time.”
It should be noted that during his redshirt season, Clarke spent practices running the point against Butler’s first team defense. That means he has a year of work going up against Nored, arguably the best defender in the country last season, as a point guard. There’s no doubt that will make him a better player and more prepared for the rigors of a season as the primary ball-handler.
At this point, Stevens has earned the right to not be questioned on his coaching decisions. That said, the move would be a curious one. Butler has two other players capable of running the point on their roster in junior Chrishawn Hopkins and sophomore Jackson Aldredge.
With the way that Clarke can shoot the ball, does it make sense to use him in a ball-handling role? Should we interpret this as a sign of just how good Dunham is? Has Clarke really turned himself into a point guard?
We won’t know for two months.
Can the season just get here already?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.