INDIANAPOLIS – It is almost a mortal sin for a basketball player who has grown up in New Castle to be unable to shoot a high percentage from the perimeter. Yet that is where fifth-year senior Chase Stigall found himself – as well as many of his Butler teammates – last season.
The team that plays on the same court that Jimmy Chitwood did mostly shot last season (28.1 percent) as if they had more “Ollie” in them.
“We can shoot,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “Not only can we shoot, but there has to be a clear emphasis on guarding us out there.”
With the addition of two phenomenal shooters in guards Kellen Dunham and Rotnei Clarke, as well as the graduation of Ronald Nored (32.8 percent) and expulsion of Chrishawn Hopkins (27.6 percent), Stevens has certainly strengthened Butler's shooting attack.
Dunham led the IHSAA in scoring and free-throw shooting as a senior at Pendleton Heights High School a year ago. Clarke, an Arkansas transfer, connected on 44 percent of his three-point shots as a junior with the Razorbacks.
“Last year I felt like we could make shots,” Stevens said. “But you could play against teams that would completely sell out and sink into the paint. They can't do that against us this year.”
That will happen when only eight of 344 NCAA Division I programs shoot a lower percentage from three-point range than your team does.
Interestingly enough, Stevens said the player who has caught his eye during early practices has been Stigall, who made just 28.4 percent of his three-point attempts (50 of 176) as a redshirt junior.
“Chase has looked terrific shooting the ball,” Stevens said. “Sometimes you want guys working and working and working in the summer, and sometimes a fifth-year guy may just need a little time off.”
Stigall couldn't work on his shooting for much of the summer after wrist surgery in May, but that hasn't had a negative effect on his touch from long range.
“You never know where there is a blessing in disguise,” Stevens said, “with that wrist and the eight weeks Chase had off.”
Stigall is among the “still undetermined” candidates to line up alongside Clarke in the starting backcourt, as are Dunham and sophomore Andrew Smeathers.
“Chase is certainly one of the (candidates),” Stevens said. “Chase is going to play because obviously people will guard him. Even when his percentages were low, people know that he is very, very capable of hitting them in succession.”
Stevens is not only pleased with Stigall's offense, but the experience he brings to the defensive end of the floor is a positive as well for a team that has eight perimeter players in either their first or second seasons with the program.
“The other thing is that Chase is a fifth-year guy that understands exactly where to be defensively,” Stevens said. “That is a huge deal right now with this team. Even though (Clarke) is a fifth-year player, he's only a second-year player here, and our system is not that similar to Arkansas, especially at the defensive end of the floor.”