24 February 2014

Can Brian Butch Bolt Meralco to the Finish?

Brian Butch
With the negotiation between the Meralco Bolts and either D.J. White or Darnell Jackson going nowhere, the team opted to pursue Brian Butch.

The 29-year old played center for the 2003 McDonald's All-American basketball team and later attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison on a basketball scholarship. He was briefly a member of the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, although he never played any games for them

The 6-11 played started his career playing for the Appleton West High School where he was recognized as Wisconsin State Player of the Year twice by the Associated Press. He averaged 22.8 points and 10.1 rebounds as a senior, leading Appleton West High School to a 23-3 record and the Division 1 State Championship game in 2003.

Butch is also Appleton West's all-time leading scorer with 1,431 points. He broke a 35-year old Wisconsin state tournament record by scoring 45 points in the quarterfinals, which was held at the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Kohl Center. He also averaged 30.8 points in four games at the Kohl Center over his prep career.

Butch was later named a 2003 McDonald's All-American ("West" squad) where he shared the court with players such as LeBron James and Luol Deng. He scored 6 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in the nationally-televised contest. Ironically, considering basketball success, Butch's Appleton West Senior quote was, "LeBron who?"

Butch elected to join the redshirt in his freshman year where he played in 27 games, averaging 9.7 minutes, 3.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.2 assists, and 0.3 blocks. He missed six games with mononucleosis. He scored his then career-high 12 points versus Northwestern University and grabbed a career-high 9 rebounds versus University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Butch was named academic All-Big Ten.

Butch continued to improve on his numbers and even named as an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention during his junior year. In his last year with the redshirts, Butch played in 36 games and averaged 12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 0.8 blocks per game which earned him a place in the USA Pan-American game trials in 2006.

Despite his improving stock, Butch was not drafted by any National Basketball Association (NBA) teams during the 2008 draft. He played with the Memphis Grizzlies in NBA Summer League, signed with Jiansu Dragons of China for two days, signed with Giants Nördlingen of Germany for the rest of the 2008-09 season before hooking up with the Ilisiakos of Greece.

In December 2009, Butch was acquired by the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League. As the Jam's starting center, Butch was named an NBA D-League All Star. Coming off the bench, he was named the 2010 All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player.

In his last three games at the NBA D-League, the 240 lbs. Butch averaged a decent 14.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.78 turnovers per game.

Butch is not only a well known D-League commodity, but also a nightly double-double candidate. What you see is what you get from the veteran, one of the most consistent big men in all of the minor league. Having said this, despite his reputation to pour in the points and grab the boards with ease, Butch's numbers have seen a surprising inconsistency.

On 11 April 2010, Butch signed with the Denver Nuggets, but he was waived by Nuggets before playing in a game for them. He again joined Nuggets for the 2010 NBA Summer League, but sustained a season ending injury in a game against the Lakers, forcing him to sit out the entire 2010–11 season. He also tried his luck with the New Orleans Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz, but was mostly relegated to the bench or ended up being waived after a few days.

What the Bolts will get by signing Butch in the next conference is a solid center and a steady performer. There's no denying that at all. Still, his age is likely something that may posed some concerns and from granting him another look. One has to wonder if Butch's best days are behind him. He may indeed continue to produce at the same level, even now, but if what he's shown NBA decision-makers hasn't been good enough up until this point, when might it ever be?

If Butch and the Bolts can reach an agreement soon, he will be the first Caucasian import that the team has hired since joining the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in 2010.

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