Butler Earns Spot

West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler battled a talented and deep group of wing players to earn a spot on USA Basketball's World University Games team.

Following three days of trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Butler emerged as one of the 12 players that will USA in the 2009 World University Games, which will be held July 2-11 in Belgrade, Serbia. The player selections were made by the USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team Committee, chaired by Syracuse University's Jim Boeheim.

"It was one of the most difficult decisions we as a committee have had because the team is so balanced," Boeheim said. "It's probably one of the better groups of wing players we have had and all the guys are great players. It looks to be one of our most competitive teams for the World University Games. We have good shooters and athletic wing guys, which gives this team a good chance to compete."

Butler, who was one of the players fighting through the stiff competition for a spot on the squad, wasn't happy with his play in the trials, but was predictably satisfied with earning a spot on the team.

"I was excited," he said on learning of his selection. "I thought I did ok, but I didn't think I played that well. I just kept a positive mental note in my head that the coaches will take care of everything, and I played as hard as I could when I was on the court."

As one of a number of seemingly interchangeable wing players on the squad, Butler isn't sure of how all the pieces will fit together yet. Still, there are 12 practice sessions left in Colorado Springs before the squad departs for the tournament.

"Honestly, I don't know what role coach wants me really to have," Butler said. "I just know that when I'm on the court, I'm going to play as hard as I can and do whatever I can for the team to win. That includes playing defense and rebounding, whatever the case is, I will do it."

Butler was preceded on the World University Games team by former Mountaineer Mike Gansey, who played on the 2005 squad.

"I had a teammate that came and played for the USA, too. Mike Gansey came here and played about three or four years ago, and he said it was great experience. I'm just trying to have that same great experience. They won that year. I just want to win. I've never been to Serbia, and I'm excited about that too – see new things and play with these good players."

In addition to Butler, the team consists of James Anderson (Oklahoma State / Junction City, Ark.); Talor Battle (Penn State / Albany, N.Y.); Trevor Booker (Clemson / Whitmire, S.C.); Craig Brackins (Iowa State / Palmdale, Calif.); Corey Fisher (Villanova / Bronx, N.Y.); Lazar Hayward (Marquette / Buffalo, N.Y.); Robbie Hummel (Purdue / Valparaiso, Ind.); Quincy Pondexter (Washington / Fresno, Calif.); Deon Thompson (North Carolina / Torrance, Calif.); Evan Turner (Ohio State / Chicago, Ill.); and Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State / Brownsville, Tenn.).

"First of all, all 16 players at trials are very good players," Wisconsin head coach Ryan said. "Everybody that competed worked very hard against one another at a very high level. The toughest part was getting down to the 12 players. I don't want to take anything away from the guys who didn't make it, but the 12 who are on the final list are the ones that if you look at the overall picture — offense, defense, rebounding, things like that — this was the 12 that stood out. I thought the selection committee did a very good job of evaluating.

"The next step is to make sure we are all on the same page in everything that we do. We can't have three guys handling screens one way, for example, and two guys doing something different. What we are going to try to defensively is make sure that we understand our rotations and coverage, and from there, understand offensively what our looks are going to be. We need to learn to play to our strengths and not shy away from weaknesses, and those are all nuances that will play out over the next week before we head to Serbia."

The 2009 USA squad will remain in Colorado Springs for two-a-day practices through Wednesday, June 24. The team departs for Serbia on Thursday.

The World University Games is organized by the International University Sports Federation and held every other year. The 2009 competition includes 24 men's basketball teams competing for a gold medal. Eligible athletes for the USA team must be currently enrolled in a college or university and have remaining NCAA athletic eligibility.

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