Butler Basketball Season Preview: The Freshmen


The Butler Bulldogs’ depth of upperclassmen could cause fans to pump the brakes on the expectations for the Freshmen recruiting class.

Butler Basketball has a problem, but it’s a good one to have. Even with the loss of standout seniors Alex Barlow and Kameron Woods to graduation, the Butler Bulldogs men’s basketball team is laden with talented upperclassmen, leaving the production value of the team’s lone two freshmen up in the air.

While both have the potential to contribute in certain capacities early on, the question remains as to how much.

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Nate Fowler, a 6-foot-10-inch center from Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, OH) was brought on board for a reason, and it’s conceivable he’ll be tapped to fill a rather large void. As the tallest player on the roster, Fowler is the team’s best option to battle the rough-and-tumble big men of the Big East Conference.

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Since moving to the Big East, and even during its short stint in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Butler has found itself incredibly undersized. Although the team has a history of overcoming glaring deficiencies to produce successful seasons, a lack of size and strength has perhaps been its biggest downfall. Fowler can provide a much needed physical presence to a considerably small roster.

Fowler is a surprisingly nimble player who uses his frame well and can give any defense fits with a wide array of bruising post moves. He has a knack for finding himself in the right place at the right time underneath the basket. When you surround him with Butler’s current litany of pure shooters, it creates a match up nightmare for opposing teams. Coaches will need to decide what’s more important – doubling down on the post to prevent a one-on-one situation with Fowler, or protecting the perimeter against a barrage of three-pointers.

Fowler could be a great compliment to junior forward Andrew Chrabascz, who plays with more heart and hustle than any player he’s matched up against. With Woods gone, the burden of protecting the paint and providing any sort of offensive production in the post falls squarely on the shoulders of Chrabascz and 6-foot-8-inch sophomore Tyler Wideman – and Fowler has the potential to lighten that load.

Mar 7, 2015; Providence, RI, USA; Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

With all of his upside, Fowler does lack certain traits typically found in a Bulldog big man. He’s not a floor-stretcher by any means. His mid-range jumper is solid and he can knock down open shots from 15 feet and in, but he can’t be relied on to consistently hit 3s as a trailer or as a screener during a pick and roll – which, for Butler, is a situation that presents itself nearly every trip down the floor.

For all intents and purposes, Fowler is exactly what Butler needed. He’s a solid, fundamental center who can rebound on both ends of the court and presents major challenges for opposing teams.

However, Fowler’s inability to contribute on fast breaks and stretch the floor as a shooter, not to mention his inexperience playing against Big East competitors, could limit the amount of playing time he’s allotted by coach Chris Holtmann.

It’s also no coincidence Butler signed 6-foot-6-inch guard/forward Sean McDermott. McDermott is a big time scorer whose game eerily resembles that of senior Kellen Dunham, a fellow Pendleton Heights Arabian.

McDermott and Dunham have more than just a hometown in common. Both are pure shooters. Both are roughly the same body type and can create their own shots with ease.

McDermott has a great stroke and is deadly from behind the arc, especially when catching a pass off of a screen or when spotting up. As a high school senior, McDermott hit 34 percent of his three-pointers according to MaxPreps.com.

His length allows him to shoot over smaller defenders and his quickness and ball handling ability make him difficult for bigger, slower defenders to guard. McDermott is also a tremendous free throw shooter, which comes in handy considering how often he gets to the line – he shot 87 percent from the stripe on 104 attempts as a senior.

However, McDermott isn’t an incredibly gifted off-the-dribble shooter, which is an essential skill for any high-volume scorer in the Big East. He’s also not much of a threat in the post, and can be overpowered and outrebounded by stronger players.

That being said, McDermott has tremendous upside. And while it’s tough to tell just how much he will see the floor this year, especially on a team filled with experienced upperclassmen, look for him to play a huge role in seasons to come as he continues to develop.

Next: IUFB: The Jordan Howard Factor

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