Ready To Roll... Again

They came to Ohio State last year as highly-touted freshmen, but the difficulty of the transition from high school and college came as a surprise to sophomores Jamar Butler and Matt Terwilliger. This year, the two have a better understanding of what to do and are coming into the season prepared to contribute much more. Kyle Lamb has the story.

They say you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. But that doesn't mean former AAU teammates Matt Terwilliger and Jamar Butler aren't going to try anyways.

Last year, Butler often struggled with his outside shot and confidence while Terwilliger was buried on the bench behind All-Big Ten Terence Dials and senior Matt Marinchick. Butler, meanwhile, did make a worthwhile impact the second half of the season as the alternating starter at PG along with Brandon Fuss-Cheatham.

As both enter their sophomore seasons, they say they have matured, worked hard and learned a lot as to what it's going to take to be successful at this level.

"I didn't know what work was last year," Terwilliger said Thursday afternoon. "I thought I was working hard and I thought this was as hard as I could go, but I'm just trying to push myself to a whole other level this year."

The 6-9, center from Troy, Ohio is up to 240 pounds and has added a lot of strength in the weight room in the off-season.

Last season, Terwilliger played sparingly at best in scoring just 1.5 points a game and 0.8 rebounds. However, with the loss of Marinchick, the Buckeyes need him to spell Dials for important minutes, especially against tougher Big Ten competition.

"I think that Matt, in talking with him after the season, he learned an incredibly valuable lesson coming in as a freshman, as most freshmen do," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of Terwilliger. "His thing was being able to come in and compete at a high level every single day. I think that I've been very pleased with his results since the season ended in what he's been able to accomplish."

Dials, a senior co-captain that faced Terwilliger every day in practice has helped motivate him to improve. From last season to this fall, Dials has noticed a significant improvement in Terwilliger.

Enough to where Dials feels like Terwilliger will be a valuable commodity off the bench.

"He definitely did (improve)," Dials said. "Last year, and we still joke around about this, but I used to kick his butt every day in practice. He worked in the off-season and he really took it serious. He worked hard, he got stronger and he got better."

"I'm not pushing him around any more. He's actually playing hard and scoring. It's going to be something that he can come in and contribute right away. It's not going to be a letdown when he comes in the game," Dials added.

Butler on the other hand, started coming into his own a little bit towards the end of last year. Often Ohio State had him in the lineup because of his passing and his defensive ability.

The last few weeks of the season, Butler often got the start over Fuss-Cheatham. The biggest thing Butler was lacking was his dependable outside shot from high school.

As a freshman, Butler shot just 23 percent from 3-point range and 33 percent from the field. He scored 3.6 points a game and added 2.3 assists per game.

"It's a big mindset change," Butler noted. "Coming into my freshman year, I guess I didn't know what to expect coming into the Big Ten conference. I'm going to look to score a little more this year."

He vows not to have the same problems shooting the ball.

"My shot wasn't going down last year, so I'm working on my shot a lot," Butler said. "During the summer I got lots of shots up and I'm hitting my shots again."

Butler will likely challenge JUCO transfer Sylvester Mayes of Redlands Community College for the main role as the team's point guard this season. Matta says that Je'Kel Foster, Ronald Lewis and even Matt Sylvester are guys you might see handle the ball at times this season.

But it's clear the team is relying on Butler to step up as a leader and be a successful point guard.

"Jamar last year had a tremendous freshman year," Matta said, "And I know that so many people look at points or what he did, but I think he established himself as a good defender and I hope he's even better this year."

Matta is expecting a lot more from Butler in his role as not only a point guard, but as a shooter.

"He worked very hard this summer on shooting the ball and he's gotten better," Matta added. "You know, I think Jamar can be a 33-percent plus 3-point shooter and last year he was at 23 (percent). Getting that up is going to be huge for him. I think he's more comfortable in what we're doing this year."

While Butler said he would be looking to create off the dribble a little more this year, and Terwilliger said he would look to be more aggressive, both are hoping for a new lease on life in their second seasons at Ohio State.

You can sense the excitement with both of them for a new role and an increased role.

"He's ready to lead the team," Terwilliger said of his friend Butler. "He was a leader last year and I think he's looking a lot better."

And as for himself…

"I'm excited. I thought I understood it last year and I didn't even have a clue," he concluded. "I really worked a lot harder."

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