Ready for the jump

Being a head coach's first recruit always comes with its added pressure and Jimmy Butler, Buzz Willams' first signee at Marquette, understands that all too well.


It is a word to which Jimmy Butler has grown accustomed during his time in junior college while leading a program at Tyler (Texas) JC to its most successful season in school history and earning NJCAA All American Honorable Mention status in the process.

Pressure to perform. Pressure to win. Self-imposed pressure to make his basketball talent take him far in life.

Although it took the Tomball, Texas native a little longer than he would have liked to land at a Division-I school, Butler thanks his time at Tyler for helping alter his outlook on life.

"It really changed the way I looked at things," Butler said. "As a young kid I took a lot of things for granted, and now I know you can't do that and you've got to work hard for everything that you have."

The experience also helped strengthen his drive for success on the court.

"Nobody was going to take a player that they didn't need [in junior college]. So night in and night out you were going to have competition."

With this new perspective, Butler elevated his game at the JUCO ranks, and his 18.1 points per game ranked him among the top-three scorers in the NJCAA in 2007-08.

"I didn't have the exposure I needed out of high school to go to a major Division-I basketball school," he recalled. "Everybody told me ‘you're better than this and you could play somewhere really big one day.'"

It would eventually be one of Butler's teammates that would give him the exposure he was needed to land a spot on a Division-I roster. During a visit to see fellow Apache and Marquette commit Joe Fulce, Buzz Williams discovered Butler.

"I talked to Buzz a lot when he came down to watch Joe play," Butler said. "And we started to build a relationship. He always told me he was going to be truthful to me from the get-go."

With his official commitment to Marquette, Butler joined the 2008 class with Fulce and fellow Texan Chris Otule. The team returns with plenty of veteran leadership but Williams has stresses that the new comers will be the difference this year.

Many project the 6'6" Butler to spend time primarily at the small forward position, but that's taking another of his assets lightly, according to teammates.

"Don't underestimate his speed" warned Fulce.

It is his speed that has Butler thinking he could be playing other positions in the backcourt as well.

"I think I'm really going to end up playing a wing," he said.

Upon arriving at Marquette, Butler was immediately thrown back into the pressure-cooker. The team has been through summer workouts and an intense preseason Boot Camp regimen, and teammates note that it's already paid dividends for Butler's game.

"His footwork has got a lot better and he has got a lot stronger," said Fulce.

Butler also credited seniors Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews for their help easing his transition to Division-I basketball.

"I've got a lot of stuff to learn," Butler admits. "But that's why they're there. They teach me everything. [They have] since day one."

Once again, Butler finds himself dealing with pressure. This time, it is the expectations of a veteran Golden Eagles team to have extended success in the Big East and the NCAA Tournament. And once again, Butler is unfazed.

"I've got to bring some things to the team in order for this team to succeed. We're trying to win and we're going to work hard. We're always going to be together."

Zachary Newman is a freshman majoring in business.

This is the third of six feature articles from leading up to Marquette Madness. Next, Pat Kurish break things down with Marquette center Dwight Burke.

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