INDIANAPOLIS – Following Butler's recent 71-67 defeat to Charlotte, which was the first at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season, the Bulldog Nation was ecstatic, not only to see their favorite team bounce back with a 68-63 win at Fordham on Saturday, but also to see Andrew Smith in a uniform instead of slacks and a sweater.
Smith and his Butler (21-5, 8-3 Atlantic 10) teammates will host Duquesne (8-17, 1-10) today at 7 p.m. (WNDY-TV).
The senior center missed the Charlotte game with an abdominal injury, and it was initially thought that he would miss Saturday's game at Fordham as well. However, he healed quicker than expected and ended up playing 30 minutes (12 points, two rebounds) in the win.
Watching No. 15-ranked Butler play last week without the 6-foot-11 Smith made most of the 7,000-plus fans at Hinkle shudder. However, he only has a month or so of eligibility remaining, so Bulldog fans better get used to not seeing him in the lineup.
“I thought about that,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said of the future without Smith. “You have to look at that and say 'Are you good depth-wise on the interior?'”
Smith will graduate following this season, but Stevens will have returning (next year's class) senior Erik Fromm and Khyle Marshall, along with junior Kameron Woods. Each player lacks in a particular area, Fromm (6-foot-8, 223 pounds) and Woods (6-foot-9, 200 pounds) in bulk, and Marshall (6-foot-6, 216 pounds) in height.
But Stevens isn't terribly concerned at this juncture.
“We've got Erik and Khyle, both are seasoned guys,” Stevens said. “Kam is going to get a lot stronger with his second summer (on campus). That will really help.”
To add depth, Stevens went out and recruited a pair of bigger bodies in the class of 2013 in Nolan Berry (6-foot-10) and Andrew Chrabascz (6-foot-7). Though they will be true freshmen, Stevens has plans – and hopes – for the youngsters.
“The two guys that we have coming in are really good,” Stevens said. “We'll have better depth, per se, because we are actually adding one more body than we have this year.”
Butler will graduate Smith, and guards Rotnei Clarke and Chase Stigall of the scholarship players. Berry, Chrabascz, incoming guards Rene Castro and (verbal commit) Elijah Brown will bring the number of scholarship players in 2013-14 to 12, one shy of the limit of 13. At this point, Stevens isn't sure what will happen to that scholarship for next year.
“You usually like to have one (available scholarship) at the end of each season,” Stevens said. “It paid off for us two years ago when (Clarke) transferred.”
Whether that last scholarship gets utilized on another front court player remains to be seen according to the coach.
“It may or may not,” Stevens said. “We'll continue to assess that, but I feel really good about those five guys. I really do.”