It's important to remember that the top high school basketball players are just that – high school players. This is despite the fact that adults often view them through the prism of middle age when it comes to their decision making. Kids are going to make decisions that reflect being a teenager, and basketball fans, coaches and recruiting analysts shouldn't expect anything else.
Throughout history, the star athlete has rarely dated the cute girl in the band who went on to study biochemistry in college. It's almost always been the cheerleader whose most critical analysis to that point has been what type of dress to buy for the junior-senior prom.
That's precisely where the Butler men's basketball program enters into this equation. Over the past two decades, there has not been a men's basketball program within the state of Indiana that has achieved the success of the Bulldogs. Yet you would not know that by studying the college selections by the highest-rated recruits. However, that may be changing according to the latest generation of studs.
When Butler left the Horizon League a year ago to compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference, it sent a message to the nation's best recruits. But the Bulldogs' decision this spring to take that commitment to the next level and compete among the best programs in the nation has resonated with some of the nation's elite prep players.
“Definitely,” Trey Lyles said regarding on the impact of Butler's move. “You're playing against better competition and they have a better TV schedule.”
Lyles is currently rated as the fourth-best player nationally, and the 6-foot-10 forward says that he's “trying to become the number one player in the country” during this summer circuit. The Indianapolis Tech High School junior has narrowed his list to six schools (Butler, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville and UCLA) and said that “they are all equal.” However, with regards to the Bulldogs, Lyles certainly has been impressed.
“Their coach (Brad Stevens) is outstanding,” Lyles said. “They have good players coming in and they have good players already there. They know how to play the game. It's definitely a good school to go to.”
Talented players such as Cody Zeller, V.J. Beachem, and others in the recent past have often strongly considered Butler, but in the end, the Bulldogs have mostly been forced to figure out how to have success with lower-rated recruits.
In the past five recruiting classes, Butler has signed four of the top 150 recruits according to Rivals.com, which pales in comparison to Indiana (17), Purdue (10) and Notre Dame (9).
Despite those numbers, Butler (an average of 23.8 wins per year for 18 consecutive seasons) has managed to make 11 of the past 17 NCAA Tournaments, advance to the Sweet 16 four times in the past 11 seasons, and play for the national title twice (2010 and 2011).
Lyles is one of two Indianapolis natives to have Butler on his select list. Park Tudor forward Trevon Blueitt (rated 46th nationally) also is looking at the Bulldogs carefully and he reiterated Lyles' thoughts on the program now being a member of a top conference.
“I think it helps,” Blueitt said. “Going from the Horizon League to the A-10 to the Big East, which is one of the biggest conferences, that means a lot. In the conference, there is not a bad team. You're going against a good team every round.”
Blueitt has at least a dozen schools listed among his possibilities, including Notre Dame, Indiana and Purdue.
Hearing Lyles and Blueitt's thoughts will most assuredly make Stevens excited. Last month, the Bulldog coach felt that the impact of joining the Big East had yet to resonate - at least locally.
"I still haven't gathered that the 'wow factor' is as strong here (in Indiana) as it is other places," Stevens said. "I think that it is very, very strong other places. I think people will start to recognize it once they really look at our schedule next year and start to see the teams that are coming through here.
"I think what it does is helps your marketability in other parts of the country even more so."
Here are the highest-rated players to sign with Butler over the past few seasons:
Elijah Brown (2013, rated 140th)
Nolan Berry (2013, 120th)
Kellen Dunham (2012, 93rd)
Roosevelt Jones (2011, 129th)
Khyle Marshall (2010, 118th)
Chrishawn Hopkins (2010, 124th)
Matt Howard (2007, 91st)