Hark's Bark - 12.15.2020 (Butler Mailbag)

Butler (1-0) has only played one game through the first several weeks of the 2020-21 season due to a positive COVID-19 test. With the pause now complete and the Dawgs ready to take the court once again later this week, I took questions from ButlerHoops.com for this month’s edition of the Hark’s Bark. Thank you as always for the questions!

Some of the topics discussed in this piece include Christian David, the universal transfer waiver vote, and what the future might hold in terms of recruiting and class size management.

Update on how Christian David's recovery is going?

Christian David is now approaching the 11-month mark since tearing his ACL and the rehab seems to be just a little bit behind schedule. The 6-6 senior was reported to be on track with his recovery last month but Butler’s pause pushed back slightly due to the precautions set for the entire team. Conditioning is going to be key for every team that goes on pause as the ability to get into the gym is limited.

This has impacted David’s return-to-action process and I’m not expecting him to be ready for at least a couple more weeks. I will try to continue to provide updates on his status as the Big East season begins, but he will not be available against Villanova on Wednesday night or against Indiana over the weekend. David appears poised to reprise his sixth man role from a year ago once he returns.

Do you feel it’s likely the NCAA gives all transfers immediate eligibility?

I do. In fact, I would be quite surprised if the vote for a universal transfer waiver is not passed on Dec. 16th. It has been recommended, there is momentum behind it, and it would honestly be a pretty bad look at this point for the vote to be rejected. There has been plenty of backlash towards the waiver process over the past couple of seasons and those complaints have only intensified amidst the pandemic this year.

Butler is not alone in the teams that would benefit significantly from this universal transfer rule. For those that pay for a Heat Check CBB subscription (where I cover college hoops from a national perspective), I dove into the 10 teams that I thought would benefit most from the vote passing. Some of the non-Butler teams included in the article were Memphis, Dayton, and Notre Dame - among others. You can find the whole piece here ($).

Who on Butler do you think has improved the most from the start of the season until now?

This is impossible to answer, especially without the context of how much work anyone has really been able to do over the past week. In terms of who will look the best upon return, I think that will mostly depend on conditioning. It wouldn’t be a surprise whatsoever, in my opinion, if Coach Jordan will keep the roster on minute restrictions during Butler’s two games this week.

To take a stab-in-the-dark at answering this question, though, I will say Myles Tate. The first-year guard was thrust into the fire against Western Michigan by playing 31 minutes. And while he played pretty well overall, I am a firm believer in his ability to be a legit scoring option from the perimeter, which he didn't show much of in the opener. With the Dawgs desperately needing 3-point threats this season, Tate can help to fill that void along with transfer Jair Bolden.

Butler’s three primary freshmen will improve with every minute they play and I think we’ll see a big jump from Tate as he grows accustomed to the speed of the college game and his role with the Dawgs. If we believe the minutes distribution from Game 1 to be a reflection of how everyone looked over the multiple weeks of preseason practices, then Tate is the most-likely to be Butler’s top freshman contributor.

Any updates on our 2022 prospects?

I can’t say that I have asked about any developments in Butler’s 2022 recruiting over the past month or so. Additionally, recruiting services have also been fairly quiet about any of the Dawgs’ work in this class so far. I will say that I am expecting Butler to wait to offer anyone new until they are able to see them more, particularly in person. There are quite a few names that are on Butler’s radar to see, though, if the opportunities present themselves. 

The pandemic has changed the evaluation and recruiting process for every program. As a result, I think the best I can do is just provide a list of 2022 guys that both Butler has been connected with and that I am most interested in based on what I’ve seen (in no particular order): Justin Taylor, Brendan Hausen, Pete Suder, Will Shaver, Leon Bond, JaVaughn Hannah, Jaden Schutt, and Saxby Sunderland.

I will do a deep dive on Butler’s 2022 targets once there appears to be a discernable group of priorities.

If the scholarship totals do not change in light of this year's eligibility rule, thoughts on how we might best handle a class of 5 and a class of 3 all with the same eligibility. Also, we would have one scholarship open for one of our seniors in addition to Bo to stay next year. Do you red-shirt all 3 newcomers and Wilmoth next year so you have 2 classes of 4?

I think that decision will have to be made after the coaches are able to see everyone in preseason practices. Despite all the scouting that takes place during the recruiting process, it is impossible to know what a player will actually be able to bring when they arrive on campus. Unlike some other Butler fans, I haven’t had much of a problem with the way this coaching staff has handled redshirts thus far in their time with the program.

I trust that they will make the right decisions with how they want to handle their class sizes in what will undoubtedly be an unprecedented situation. There is a long way to go until any of those decisions need to be made, and both current and future freshmen will surely develop their games significantly over the coming 10 months. This question is impossible to answer until we know what next season will look like.

Other news and notes:

  • Butler’s first “real” full-team practice since the preseason took place earlier today (Dec. 15th), just one day before taking on Villanova. This does not mean that nobody has been in the gym for the past three weeks, though. There have been individual and group workouts and the team has worked on conditioning back to game-form. This practice could be described as the first “regular” practice since before beating Western Michigan.
  • Butler’s matchup with DePaul that was originally scheduled for Dec. 21st has been postponed due to the latter still being on pause due to COVID-19. In fact, the Blue Demons are yet to play a single game this season. With that game no longer on the schedule for the 21st, though, the Dawgs are actively looking for someone to play around that time period. Scheduling has been pretty spur-of-the-moment across the country this season with trying to find teams that are available to play and at an agreeable location. This is a situation to monitor moving forward - adding a possible tune-up game against low or mid-major might really benefit Butler.
  • I alluded to this a bit earlier, but do not be surprised if at least a few Butler players are on minute restrictions this week as the team conditions back to game-shape. The past few weeks have not been easy on the team with limited workout ability. The Dawgs have not had much time back on the court since going on pause and that could impact the minutes distribution once they return to action.
  • Head coach LaVall Jordan did not directly say “no” when asked if Bo Hodges would be available to play against Villanova if the universal transfer waiver is passed earlier on the same day. That leads me to believe that it is a possibility for the former ETSU star to make his debut against the Wildcats, although we won’t know for sure until there is a further update. Even if unavailable to play on Wednesday night, the blanket waiver being passed would lead to him taking the court against IU over the weekend. Either way, the Dawgs would welcome him to the rotation - and likely the starting lineup - as soon as possible.
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