INDIANAPOLIS – Can the Butler men's basketball message board cynics just stop with the criticism of Bulldog point guard Alex Barlow?
Can the media (ahem, cough, cough) just stop with the press row commentary questioning the junior's qualifications to be on the court as much as he is?
Can I just stop with the tweets wondering when – if ever – this kid is going to be replaced in the Butler lineup by a legitimate NCAA Division I point guard? You know, the type of athlete who looks the part of a Big East point guard. A long, lightning quick, finger-rolling-over-the-rim point guard who throws no-look passes and has your jaw brushing the floor.
It ain't happening anytime soon. And that's fine with those in the Butler program.
“Barlow,” Butler junior forward Kameron Woods pondered recently, “the one thing that you can say about him is that he's been one of the hardest workers that I've ever seen. He's in the gym late. He's watching film. He works harder than anybody out there. That's a testament to what he's done and where he's at in this program.”
Butler (2-0) will host Vanderbilt (2-0) at 6 p.m. today (Fox Sports 1).
Woods wasn't just delivering some player-speak to make everyone feel good about his classmate and teammate. Last spring, I randomly stopped by Hinkle Fieldhouse after the Top 40 Workout at Marian University and Barlow was getting out of his car on the late Sunday afternoon to go in and put up some shots. That's what you have to do when you are in his Nikes.
Barlow came to Butler as a walk-on player to learn under former Bulldog coach Brad Stevens in preparation of his own coaching career. No one – more than likely that includes the 6-foot guard himself – ever thought what has happened (35 starts and still counting) actually would.
Certainly not the growing list of scholarship point guards that have been brought in to lead the Bulldog offense only to find themselves leading cheers on the bench.
“Barlow is a great player,” Woods said. “He's a great defender. He does a lot of things that people don't see that win you games.”
Things like sliding over to stop a drive, yet still recover to his own man and prevent him from getting an open look at the basket. There is no statistic in the box score under “help and recover” or “talked on a switch” or “rotated quickly and properly” or “closed out under control and contested the shot.” If those categories were tracked by the media, Barlow, who earned a scholarship as a sophomore, would be All-Big East this season.
“Defense is his strength,” first-year Butler coach Brandon Miller said. “His ability to defend multiple people, to use his mind, to use his lateral quickness.”
Whoa, hold on there, young coach. “Lateral quickness?” My question was regarding Alex Barlow. Are we talking about the same guy?
“A lot of times when you think about Alex Barlow,” Miller continued unswayed, “you don't think of athleticism, but he's very good laterally. He has an ability to stay in front of the ball. He has quick hands.”
Those “quick hands” are the reason Barlow leads Butler in steals this season (four). And that mind (as well as his moxie) is why he has eight assists and only one turnover in 47 minutes of playing time.
“He can sit in the film room and he can watch and then take that and translate it to the game,” Miller said. “He sees what's going on on the floor.”
Barlow can see what it takes to succeed, Miller can see that quality in Barlow, and Woods has seen the special traits that Barlow possesses since both players were freshmen. Now it is time for the rest of us to open our eyes and realize that this guy is a big reason behind the program's recent success.
“You really can't say enough good things about Barlow,” Woods summarized. “He's a great teammate and he's earned everything that he's gotten so far.”