After successfully managing the transition from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 back in 2012, Butler had another transition to manage last season as they were one of three programs to join the Big East. The Bulldogs struggled, and while the departure of Brad Stevens didn’t help with the transition neither did the loss of junior forward Roosevelt Jones.
Jones suffered a wrist injury during the team’s trip to Australia in the summer of 2013, which ruled him out for the entire 2013-14 campaign. The injury robbed Butler of its most versatile player, and that proved to be a major issue for the Bulldogs as they struggled in their first season as a member of the Big East. Saturday night Jones played in his first game since the injury, and 88-45 exhibition victory over Chicago University.
Jones played 25 minutes in the blowout victory and he was all over the box score, finishing the game with eight points, eight assists, five steals and three rebounds on the night. In total five Bulldogs finished the game in double figures, with Kellen Dunham scoring a team-best 18 points, but it’s the return of the player who has the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways on both ends of the floor that sticks out from the exhibition.
With regards to Butler’s ball movement, last season the Bulldogs ranked ninth in the Big East in assists per game (11.1) and tenth in assist percentage (45.7%). Against Chicago, Butler assisted on 48.6% of its made field goals, and their assist-to-turnover ratio was a solid 2.0 (18 assists, nine turnovers). Interim head coach Chris Holtmann touched on the team’s ball movement in his postgame comments.
“We’re sharing the ball right now. We’re passing to the open man and doing a really good job of it,” said Butler interim head coach Chris Holtmann after the game. “The ball doesn’t stick too much; the ball moves and that’s a real credit the unselfishness our guys have right now.”
Butler won just four conference games last season, sitting at or near the bottom of the Big East in many of the major statistical categories on both offense and defense. And while those assist numbers Saturday night weren’t all Jones’ doing, having him back in the fold certainly helps matters. Add in what Jones is capable of doing defensively, and his return is a big deal when assessing Butler’s prospects in 2014-15.