Unfortunately from a record-keeping standpoint, not a single one of Da'Sean Butler's 38 points on Saturday against Mountain State University will ever be officially recorded by WVU. Such is the policy when it comes to exhibition games.
If the game were officially recorded, Butler's point total would have been the most by a Mountaineer player since Greg Jones poured in 38 against Virginia Tech in 1983, a game which took place nearly five years before Butler was even born.
What West Virginia's junior forward can take with him when the regular season tips off next Saturday night against Elon is a boatload of confidence. No matter whom the opponent is or what the circumstance may be, everyone wants to play well. Butler certainly did that, and then some, in WVU's 20-point win over the NAIA Cougars.
"Honestly, everything that I did today was pretty much just staying in the offense," Butler said after the win. "I was just trying to play and be a player. If somebody is not in a spot or filling a spot, I filled in. If my man sagged off me and I got the ball, I shot a jump shot. I just had to read my man, see where he was playing and react. It was just staying within the offense."
That Butler had the type of game that he did all the while staying within the framework of West Virginia's open-post motion offense is undoubtedly a positive sign as the Mountaineers inch closer to the beginning of year two under Bob Huggins.
The most impressive thing about the job Huggins did last season was finding a way to mold John Beilein-recruited players into a team which finished with West Virginia's second highest finish since joining the Big East Conference. Part of the credit for that goes to Beilein, who recruited smart, fundamentally-sound and unselfish players. Sprinkle in a healthy dose of Huggins and it's not difficult to figure out why the Mountaineers were dancing deep into March.
On Saturday, Butler scored from all over the court, canning 11-of-19 shots from the field including four of his eight three-point attempts. Butler's offensive versatility has been a big reason for his success through two seasons. Even still, Saturday's performance was impressive.
"That's the kind of players that (Beilein) recruited my freshmen year," Butler said. "Everybody can do a little bit inside and outside, and Coach Huggins definitely brought a lot of the inside game with him when he came in. We're all just expanding on our games to do as much as we can."
Of course, in the words of Hickory High coach Norman Dale, "There's more to the game than shooting." Aside from his scoring outburst, the Newark, N.J. native also grabbed 11 rebounds and was active defensively with three steals and just one personal foul.
If Butler can consistently put together complete performances like he did on Saturday then the Mountaineers will be a very difficult matchup for opposing teams in 2008-09. That doesn't mean that he has to score 30 points a game for the Mountaineers to be good. It does mean scoring within the framework of the offense, rebounding, staying active defensively and – perhaps most importantly – keeping out of foul trouble. Because there is no question that West Virginia is a much better team with Butler than it is without him.
"We don't really need somebody to come in and score that many points. Everybody is capable of scoring," he explained. "Honestly, I just made a lot of shots today. What you'll see a majority of the season is well-balanced scoring, a well-balanced team. The role I'm assuming is to keep the coach happy by doing whatever I can. Rebound, hustle plays, and score when I'm supposed to."
"At the end of the day, I just want to do what's best for the team and help us win some games."