Butler Has Become College Hoops A-Lister

MORGANTOWN – There are always breakout stars during championship week.

It’s entirely possible, none shone brighter than West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler, who introduced himself to the few college basketball fans left who didn’t know him in a big way during the Big East Tournament with two game-winning shots in three games, leading his team to a championship.

Those were the fifth and sixth game-deciding shots he’s made this season, one of the best anyone’s ever had wearing a Mountaineers uniform. He does this despite the fact that everyone in the building knows the ball is going to him.

And it’s clearly made him a college basketball A-lister, which is why he was in search of Georgetown shirt-wearing Spike Lee after the Big East Championship game, wanting to ask if he enjoyed the show?

”I was looking for him,” Butler said. ”I couldn’t find him.”

Butler said he grew up a Knicks fan. He and Lee had always rooted for the same team.

”He was over there with the Georgetown hoodie on just going crazy, but it was cool because I got the last laugh,” Butler said.

Sparring with Spike Lee. Headlines across the Internet and the entire East Coast about The Butler doing something. Game-winner after game-winner. This guys is a bona fide star.

”It was kinda like a dream,” Butler said. ”I can’t really explain it. After winning the whole thing seeing my teammates and seeing how happy they were. And seeing how happy Coach (Bob Huggins) was and how excited he was. And just to see all the fans and see how proud we made them. And to hear how crazy things were here. It was pretty much a dream come true, minus the fires and everything.”

To the rest of the college basketball world, he’s become an overnight sensation, much the same way Joe Alexander used the last days of his Mountaineers career to grab attention, with a dominating 10-game stretch.

But his body of work dwarfs Alexander’s.

As a freshman, Butler averaged 10.1 points per game despite not making a start. His 20 points were second only to Frank Young’s 24 in the 2007 NIT Championship Game. That year, he made the All-Big East Rookie Team. Butler has started every game since and become the winningest player in school history. As a sophomore, he averaged 12.9 ppg. As a junior, it was 17.1, including that still-memorable 43-point night against Villanova.

He averaged double figures in scoring all four seasons under two very different coaches.

Still, Butler’s most impressive statistic might be this one: On Dec. 22, 2008, he had 1,001 career points. One full season plus one Big East season later, he’s got 2,016.

Alexander left WVU with 990; he’s not a member of the school’s 1,000-point club.

One thing’s for sure. While teammate John Flowers gets his basketball talents from his mother, an All-American at Louisiana Tech in the early 80s, Butler did not.

”My mom loves basketball,” Butler said. ”Actually, I don’t know if she loves basketball, but my mother loves to watch me play. She doesn’t know about it. She’ll sit there, smile and enjoy the game. She doesn’t know what’s going on.”

What about his father?

”Everything is this big emotional roller coaster with him,” Butler said. ”I just stay away from him when I’m playing. He’ll drop a tear in a heartbeat. I have to stay away from him because I’m not trying to cry.”

These days, the only ones doing the crying are the opponents, as they keep being done in by The Butler.

He’ll see if he can’t continue that magic for six more games.

”There’s no reason why we can’t go deep or even have an opportunity of winning the whole thing,” Butler said.

Who is doubting him?

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net