TOM DAVIS: Butler pursues a ‘want’ in North Carolina guard, not a ‘need’

Butler University men's basketball coach LaVall Jordan talks to his team during a timeout in the second half of a NCAA Tournament game last month against Purdue in Detroit. (By The Associated Press)

There is a difference between a want and a need and the Butler men’s basketball team is caught up in that situation as it relates to the Bulldogs’ recruitment of North Carolina high school guard Jamarius Burton.

Do the Bulldogs want the 6-foot-5 athlete to join their program?

That would be a definitive “Yes.”

Does Butler need Burton next season?

Not really.

The Bulldogs’ 2018-19 roster lacks in a couple of critical areas: experience and post play. However, it is not hurting in terms of perimeter depth. The Bulldogs have bodies in abundance to utilize next season at the three (and often four) perimeter positions.

Second-year Butler coach LaVall Jordan has two scholarships available to offer and he recently did so to Burton, who visited Butler over the weekend.

The Bulldogs are desperate for a post player with immediate eligibility, so if Burton commits, the Bulldogs are out of offers for this class after finding a big man to rotate with returning posts Nate Fowler and Joey Brunk. Not signing a post player isn’t a viable option regardless of Jordan telling News-Sentinel.com recently that it was.

“We’re looking,” Jordan said of recruiting such a player. “But I wouldn’t say ‘Have to.'”

With all due respect, he’s incorrect in that assessment, but in any event, back to Burton, Jordan said that what to do with the two scholarships is an on-going debate within the Bulldog coaching offices.

“It depends on the day and the availability,” Jordan said. “Every time we meet, everybody has a different opinion.”

Programs often hold one scholarship back “just in case” a surprise opportunity presents itself, which for Butler, it did in December of last year.

Duke freshman forward Jordan Tucker became disenchanted early in his first season with the Blue Devils and decided to leave the program and Butler had the scholarship to offer him beginning in January and he signed with the Bulldogs.

Tucker will be eligible in December of next season.

Such a scenario wouldn’t be possible if both Burton AND a post player sign this spring.

“I don’t think that we have to use both,” Jordan said. “If we find one guy that we feel like can help us, or there are a lot of sit-out guys that can help you in the future.”

That is precisely the description that fits Burton and if he takes a mature approach to analyzing his career, he would realize that.

Jordan is going to start Aaron Thompson, Kamar Baldwin, Sean McDermott and Jordan Tucker along with a post player (TBD) for the next two seasons. The Bulldogs have perimeter depth in Paul Jorgensen next year, Henry Baddley (two more years) and Christian David (three more years).

It would greatly benefit Burton – in a multitude of ways – to redshirt next season and then attack his first season of eligibility with 16 months of strength, skill work and maturity behind him.

As Jordan noted, sitting out a season can be really beneficial for the athlete and the program.

“If you are just so deep,” Jordan said on the topic, “or if a kid just is not ready, it makes sense.”

The Bulldogs have implemented that practice with Jorgensen, Brunk, McDermott, and Tucker, and in each case, it has already been, or will ultimately prove to be, very helpful to all involved.

“If you can get to a point,” Jordan continued, “where you feel good about the guys that you have and you have that type of depth.”

Does Burton fit ‘The Butler Way?’

As his career wound down last month, Butler senior Tyler Wideman reflected on how the older Bulldog players help the younger ones assimilate into the culture of the university and the basketball program.

“Myself and the other older guys on the team that have already been there,” Wideman explained, “we just had to show them the way that Butler was run for the most part as far as academics and athletics. Everybody in the program does a good job making sure everything stays consistent from the (athletic director) down to the academic advisor. Everybody does a good job of keeping everybody in line.”

Butler does not possess a monopoly on exhibiting character and intelligence off the court, while still performing on it. However, it is a unique place and it certainly differs significantly as an institution from say, Wichita State, which is where Burton is visiting over the next few days.

Butler is a small, private and academically-challenging institution, whose graduation rates within the men’s basketball program dwarf those of the Shockers.

If a player is considering those two specific schools then more than likely he is making his decision primarily (if not entirely) from a purely athletic perspective. That doesn’t show a high degree of maturity or intellect on the part of the young person.

When Butler lost out on prospect Miller Kopp to Northwestern last fall, that decision made sense. Or if a student-athlete’s final choices are Tulane and Butler or Rice and Butler or Georgetown and Butler, those are similar institutions and makes a great deal of sense.

Burton’s situation is a curious one and leaves you to wonder if he truly comprehends the value of attending an institution such as Butler University.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.

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