So far in his West Virginia career, sophomore forward Da'Sean Butler has proven that you can, in fact, go home again. Last season as a freshman, Butler played games in his native New Jersey against Big East foes Rutgers and Seton Hall. The Newark native turned in totals of 17 and 21 points, respectively in those two appearances back in the Garden State, with the latter being a career high.
This past weekend, Butler had the chance to return to his hometown as the Mountaineers took part in the Legends Classic at the brand new Prudential Center. In the two games played in front of his hometown crowd, Butler averaged better than 14 points and five rebounds per contest.
"Even though I didn't get a chance to spend much time with my family, it feels excellent just to see them," Butler said before the Mountaineers made their way back to Morgantown. "It was great to get to hug my mother instead of just talking to her on the phone. That was a good feeling, and it felt good to come out and play hard both nights."
More important than the numbers this season have been the consistency Butler has displayed from game one. Head coach Bob Huggins has been impressed with the sophomore's ability to lead the team despite being so young. Having not started a year ago, one might expect Butler to ease into his expanded role. Simply put, that has not been the case.
"Da'Sean has probably been our most consistent guy, and I think that he is probably our most versatile guy," Huggins said. "We can put him on perimeter guys defensively, or we can put him on post guys. We can play him inside or we can play him outside. We run a lot of things through him."
Likewise, it was Butler ignited Mountaineer runs in the second halves of both games in Newark with a bevy of points, and all-around defensive havoc. According to him, it is the later which must set up the former, at least for the time being.
Defensively, the Mountaineers have picked up Huggins's in-your-face man-to-man style just fine. Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl noted as much following his team's win over the Mountaineers, stating that throughout the game, West Virginia's physical man-to-man greatly hindered the Vols' ability to pour in the points. It was no different against New Mexico State, with West Virginia's 9-2 run in the second half fueled by blocked shots and steals on the defensive end of the court.
Offensively, meanwhile, the transition has not gone as smooth. Players say they understand what they should be doing, but have been unable to consistently put it together for 40 minutes.
"The defense takes care of the offense," he said. "As much as we score and all that, we wouldn't get half of our points if it wasn't for our defense. The defense gets us the ball back, and allows us to get started on offense.
"Last year, we played the 1-3-1 that got a lot of turnovers and led to scores," he continued. "But mainly last year, the points came because of the offense. This year we're getting points from defense."
For the time being, that will have to do. If Butler's progression so far is indicative of what the rest of the team can do, though, the Mountaineers will be just fine by the time Big East play comes calling.