Posts Tagged ‘basketball’

Butler stories for my multi-media project last month.. more coming…

Ronald Nored:

Making it to the NCAA men’s Final Four is no easy feat, but Butler managed to do it.

“I was thinking this is right where we should be,” number one, Ronald Nored, says. “No matter what others thought or imagined about how the tournament would play out, we knew that we could get there. So just being there was like being in the right place.”

Showing up to a stadium filled with fans, students and national media was nothing like they had seen before in such a large perspective.

“The fans made this experience what it was for sure,” says Nored. “It would not have been as fun if no one showed up; thank goodness the complete opposite happened.”

Nored was blown away. “I was subject to chills we ran out because it was a dream come true,” he says.

“That goes back to how much support the state and city showed us for what we had accomplish not just in those tournament games previous to the final four but for what we had been doing all season long,” Nored says of seeing all the fans show up to support the team for the rally.

As for looking back on the season, he thinks there is nothing he would change. “I’m not sure I would change anything,” he says.

“I think everything happens for a reason and losses and things happen throughout the season so that you can learn, improve, and build on them. I would have loved to win the national championship, but sometimes you realize it’s not always ALL about basketball.”

Brad Stevens:

Always the voice of reason, the coach is meant to be a figure the players look up to. Brad Stevens, coach of the Butler Bulldogs, does just that.

At just 33 years old, he has accomplished what many coaches wish they could have in their whole careers, make it to the NCAA men’s finals, even better, in their school’s hometown. Walking into Lucas Oil Stadium for the final game against Duke was surreal he recalls.

“It was amazing,” Stevens says. “As a coach you don’t pay attention to crowd noise, because you’re focused on the game.  But it was an unbelievable environment from the moment you walked in the arena, one that none of us will ever forget.”

Even though the night ended in a loss, it was a fairytale story. The Indianapolis hometown heroes coming one shot away from a national title.

Focusing on next season, Stevens says they will focus on whatever is needed to put their personnel in the right position to be successful.  “We’re not looking to make big changes, but we want to utilize to the strengths of each player,” he says.

As the fan base increased for the team all season, next season will be no different. They were thrust into the national spotlight and plan to show off even more talent next season.

Everyone wants a piece of the team it seems. “We’re always trying to get out in the community and be active,” Stevens says. “Certainly, we have to manage those requests, because we’re getting more and more.  First and foremost, I think the thing our guys can do is continue to play hard, be great students and continue to act right off the court, and if we do those things, I think the community will continue to embrace us.”

Shelvin Mack:

A once in a lifetime opportunity came knocking at the door.  Shelvin Mack, a sophomore at Butler University, has done nothing but win all season. Starting all 32 games as a freshman, Mack helped the Butler Bulldogs win 26 games. He started all 37 games this season.

He knew he wanted to go to a school that should showcase his talent he says.

“There’s not a lot I would do different,” he says. “We certainly would have like to have won some of those early season games that we lost, but we were playing great teams.  It was a special season from start to finish.”

Special it was, as the young underdog team beat Syracuse University in the Elite 8 in the NCAA men’s tournament to make it to the Final Four, held in Indianapolis.

On the plane ride home from Salt Lake City, Mack says, “At first I couldn’t believe it.”

“That was something you always dream about, but knowing that we were really going to the Final Four just seemed surreal,” he continues. “The flight back from Salt Lake City was just the greatest time, celebrating with teammates, fellow students and fans.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many smiles in one place.”

Having hometown advantage made the whole experience better he says. “While we had never played in Lucas Oil Stadium before, we still were in familiar surroundings and we were able to keep to a somewhat normal routine,” Mack says. “And the fan support was tremendous everywhere we went.  It really made us want to play that much harder knowing all those people were pulling for us.

Over 40,000 people showed up to the rally on Saturday to support Butler in their game against Michigan State in the Final Four, the team was blown away at the support the city, state and the fans had for them.

“It really started to put into perspective the magnitude of what we had done,” he says.

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Home Sweet Home

 

Provided by ESPN

By Kyle Walke

Back home again in Indiana, and it seems that I can see, the gleaming candlelight, still burning bright, as the Butler Bulldogs make their first final four appearance in school history.  Maybe those aren’t the right lyrics, but I’m sure Jim Nabors won’t mind and I guarantee neither does coach Brad Stevens.  

Butler has earned the right to play in their own backyard with the ultimate home court advantage when they face Michigan State on Saturday.  Butler campus is precisely 5.7 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium where the next round of March madness (and this year has been madness) will take place.

“It’s just very special,” Butler forward Gordon Hayward said. “It would be special anywhere we went, but the fact we get to play in front of our home crowd kind of makes it a little more special.”

As a five seed many people have dubbed Butler as a true Cinderella Hoosiers story, a description hard to dismiss considering the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed at Hinkle Fieldhouse. 

However, these bulldogs have more bite than bark.  Led by an even keeled Stevens, Butler has now managed to control top tier teams such as Syracuse and Kansas State.  When facing one seed Syracuse, Butler led virtually the entire game until 5:23 left when Syracuse took a 54-50 lead.  At that point the Bulldogs rallied behind Junior forward Matt Howard to retake the lead and never look back defeating the Orangemen 63-59.

Against Kansas State the story was the same.  Butler jumped out to an early lead and held strong until 3:09 remaining when Kansas State tied the score.  Although Hayward’s 22 points 9 rebounds would prove too much as Butler went on to win in convincing fashion 63-56.

It’s hard to imagine a team that’s won 24 straight games, been ranked all year long, and beaten two top seeds could possibly be an underdog.

“I don’t care about being called a Cinderella or a mid-major Stevens said.  “We don’t have resources that other teams have, and that’s just a fact. But resources don’t win games. We have a lot of guys with big hearts. Why wouldn’t you want to be called that? Why wouldn’t you want to be an overachiever?”

It’s better to describe this as a team with big hearts more than overachievers.  Most of the players are from Indiana, including stars Hayward (Brownsburg) and Howard (Connersville).  Stevens himself is an Indiana native who played basketball for Zionsville and then coached at Carmel before joining the Butler squad in 2000.  The Bulldogs may be outsized, but rarely have been outhustled. 

You can say its “Hoosiers,” you can call it karma, but these boys are primed for a chance to win an NCAA National Championship right down the street in the city they call home, Indianapolis.

Quotes from ESPN’S “Bulldogs set to be hometown heroes.”