Brian Butch interview

Arizona has Brian Butch targeted as it's "priority" recruit from the Class of 2003 and UA Head coach Lute Olson attended his every game Butch played goes at the Las Vegas Big Time Tournament. Wherever Butch went, Olson was sure to follow. I spoke with Butch after his final game at the Las Vegas Big Time Tournament.

Butch, a 7-0 center from Appleton Wis., considered one the nation's top-rated big men, hurt his back at an AAU tournament in Kansas City two weeks earlier and has played only sparingly in this event.

He tried to play as much as possible, but the spasms returned when he got locked up with an opponent in his team's first game at this event. He took a hard fall (actually it looked more like it was intentional) and was unable to return. Fox Valley won that opening game, but lost its second game with Butch on the sidelines. In fact, most everyone thought Butch was finished for the tournament.

Even though he played, Butch was certainly not 100 percent. He stay in the game for periods of time and had to pick his spots, going in for two or three minutes at a time then coming out to stretch the muscles so he could return again. Fox Valley managed to win its final game in pool play and advanced to the loser's bracket of the Open Division for tournament play.

It was questionable just how effective Butch would be when Fox Valley met the Oregon Ice. In warm ups, the grimace on his face was all you need to see to realize the pain he was enduring just to be on the court with his teammate. It had to have been a trying experience, but Butch simply felt his teammates deserved his best shot.

"I wanted to show my teammates I'm not going to give up," Butch said after Fox Valley team lost the Oregon Ice in a hard-fought, close game and send the team back to Wisconsin. "They've been there for me and as long as it's not a disc or something serious I'm going to play."

Although it was evident that his back was causing him some serious discomfort, Butch played the game the only way he knows how – with reckless abandon. He was diving for lose balls and playing with an aggressiveness that belied his pain. He was banging with opponents, never giving an inch.

"That's just the way I play," Butch said. "If I stop playing that way, that's not who I am."

Now that the Big Time Tournament has come to close for Butch, he will not play anymore this summer. Instead, he'll kick back, rest his back and hang out with his high school friends.

"I'll just take a month off and try to be a normal kid," Butch said. "Just go out in the lake and swim a lot and do other stuff. I'll hang with my friends and try to get my high school team chemistry back now."

He'll also be taking phone calls from college coaches, setting up in-home and the remainder of his official campus visits. Butch is considering eight schools, but it's common knowledge that four schools lead – Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Kansas. He took his official visit to Arizona in April and will visit UNC the weekend of Sept. 11. The Kansas and Wisconsin visits have not been set.

His April visit to Arizona could end up being a mistake if the positive impressions and the inroad made at the time eventually wear off.

"I really enjoyed (my visit to Arizona)," Butch said. "They were really helpful with stuff, they really were. I don't think it either helped or hurt (Arizona). It gave me a good view of (the program). If anything it probably helped. I thought it was real helpful to see it and I will remember it. I'll never forget."

The Arizona desert is vastly different from the Wisconsin climate. So how will that play into Butch's decision?

"Different scenery, but I can change (if I go to Arizona)," Butch said. "It might be difficult, but I'll find a lake somewhere."

After returning from his official Arizona visit, Butch said he was very impressed with the Wildcats basketball program and with everything the school offered. A couple of weeks later Butch played in an AAU tournament in Chapel Hill, NC and had the opportunity to make an unofficial to UNC. He was equally impressed but has since had the time to put his feeling in perspective.

"All of the schools I'm looking at are all going to have good academic programs," he said. "They're all going to have good facilities. It's not that one school is going to have bad facilities."

So it won't be academics or the facilities that win him over, but his relationship with the people will.

"One thing that I'm going to base my decision on is the comfort level that I feel with the players and coaches and the people around (each school)," Butch said "And how comfortable I feel with the university."

On his Arizona visit, Butch said he got to know most of the players and felt comfortable with them and the coaching staff. Now he'll compare that experience when he makes his other visits.

"I met most of the players at Arizona," Butch said. "The players were really good guys. (At UNC) I met Chris Lang, but he's the only player I met. So I'm looking forward to meeting those players too and getting a feel for the players. I know the Wisconsin players because I read about them in the newspapers all the time. That's how you get to know them a little bit. I grew up watching them."

But Butch says that although he grew up watching Wisconsin basketball he's not really a Badger fan.

"I never was a Wisconsin fan," Butch said. "I'm a college basketball fan. I just love the game. I love the NCAA Tournament and when March Madness comes around I just love it."

Most recruiting "experts" feel that Wisconsin is the school to beat. The Badgers don't have the tradition, but Butch sees a Wisconsin program on the rise.

"I look at Wisconsin and I see a lot of improvement being made," Butch said. "That's kind of a big thing. You have all the regular schools (Arizona and North Carolina) that are always there. They're always in the NCAA Tournament. I look at some of the Wisconsin players and I have grown up with them. I've watched them and I see improvement. I really do. So there's a possibility they might get up there (with Arizona and UNC)."

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