Leadership Role

Upperclassmen are routinely called upon to take freshmen under their wing and show them the ropes, and that task is nothing new for West Virginia senior forward Da'Sean Butler.

Although he has been a leader of WVU's team for a good while, it has all been leading up to his final season, where helping the freshmen to adjust will be more important than ever to WVU's high hopes for the 2009-10 season.

Being ranked in the top 10 preseason polls brings added pressure to any team. The Mountaineers got there with great coaching along with seasoned veterans like Butler and the addition of highly publicized recruits like freshman guard Casey Mitchell. Although Butler has been part of his fair share of success during his time at West Virginia, his senior season is looking as though it could be his best.

Despite being stacked with talent both old and new, Butler recognizes what the team needs to work on before their season begins with an exhibition game against Mountain State University on November 8th.

"When you get more than two new players, you need to work on chemistry, especially if the players are going to be playing a lot. We plan on having the four guys play a lot because we're going to play a lot of people this year," said Butler of Mitchell, Dan Jennings, Dalton Pepper and Deniz Kilicli. "We will work on this chemistry thing as far as offensively and defensively and making sure [the underclassmen] know where they need to be defensively. It's getting in shape time right now."

While graduation is the final, natural step for most collegiate players,Butler admits that it has been strange not having former Mountaineer guard Alex Ruoff with him in preseason workouts. He credits Ruoff, now playing in Europe, with being a mentor to him during his freshman year at WVU.

"It is a little awkward [not having him around] since when I got here he was already here," said Butler. "He walked me through everything possible. It kind of feels real awkward but I know he's doing real well where he's at so it's time for me to help someone like he helped me."

One of those players that Butler is trying to help – Mitchell -- has some of the same qualities as the Mountaineers' departed shooting guard.

"I would say the way he frees himself open to get a shot off [is a lot like Ruoff]," said Butler. "He has a lot of moves to get himself some space so he can shoot the ball. That's a little different than Alex. Alex knocked down stand still shots. He never really did as much as Casey does right now. He's very competitive, that's where he reminds me of Alex."

Butler has also been impressed with the progression of freshman forward Dan Jennings. He believes that Jennings has progressed greatly in the weight room since coming to WVU and thinks that his large 6'8" 260-pound stature will benefit the team greatly this season.

"We went from Danny walking out of the weight room in tears to Danny walking out of the weight room standing up now," said Butler with a laugh. "Everyone is just getting stronger. I do think we're getting really good. We're starting to get depth."

The depth will no doubt help the Mountaineers stay fresh as they are able to rotate players in and out with more ease than they have seen in years, and also to compete with some of the big, strong front lines that have held West Virginia at a disadvantage over the past couple of seasons. With the leadership of Butler and the new talent of the freshmen, it is no surprise that West Virginia is ranked so highly in the preseason. If the teaching process, and the blending of the veterans and newcomers is successful, WVU could be on its way to its best Big East season ever.

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