Appreciating Good Things and Greatness

My Mom was one of those people who seemed to expect the worst, and then was happily surprised when good things happened. If WVU was ahead late in a game and the opponent drew closer, she'd say, "They're gonna lose this one...." Then she was pleased when we won.

I tend to have more of a glass-half-full attitude. Some of my friends even accuse me of having a glass-completely-full outlook. That's okay. I kind of relish that reputation.

I don't generally read public message boards because they tend to be so full of negativity and criticism. Even avoiding them, though, I've heard good friends and diehard WVU fans complain this season that the basketball team isn't really very good, that we blow too many leads, and blah-blah-blah. They are entitled to their opinions.

But we need to appreciate the positives.

How many seasons has the WVU men's basketball team been ranked in the nation's top 10 most of the year, and often in the top 5? How many seasons have we been sitting in the top three or four places in the Big East standings virtually all year? These are times we should enjoy.

And, to the real point of this column, how often have we been fortunate enough to watch a player the caliber of Da'Sean Butler?

With no disrespect to the rest of the terrific Mountaineer players this year or in the recent past, the answer to that question is not very often. In his senior season, Da'Sean has cemented himself among the top players to ever wear the Old Gold and Blue. We WVU fans should take a moment to appreciate him.

Da'Sean's numbers are impressive. He trails only Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley in all-time scoring, and before the season ends he should become only the third player in WVU history to surpass 2,000 points in his career. A wonderful article by Dave Hickman in the Charleston Gazette on February 24, titled "His Da' in the sun" and subtitled "Butler's four-year career ranks among Mountaineer elite," ends with an impressive list of Butler's other on-court accomplishments, noting that he ranks among the top WVU players ever in virtually every basketball statistic -- rebounds, steals, field goals, 3-point field goals, minutes played, and on and on, in addition to scoring.

Some will point out that players like West and Hundley and Wil Robinson achieved their heights in the era when freshmen weren't allowed to play varsity basketball, so they piled up their numbers in three years instead of four. And if the three-point shot had been part of the game then, they doubtless would have scored even more points. But the fact that Da'Sean was able to take the court for four years, and that he's been able to take shots from behind a Three-point arc, shouldn't diminish his stats in the least. The achievements of All-Americans like West and Hundley and Robinson certainly stand on their own merit, but I think it's fair to say that those Mountaineer icons weren't playing night after night against the level of competition that Da'Sean has faced playing in the Big East. They didn't have to regularly go against the caliber of opponent Da'Sean has battled in a conference sparkling with future NBA stars and teams like Georgetown and Connecticut and Villanova and the recent teams fielded by Syracuse and Pitt.

I was too young during the Jerry West era to remember much about that time. My principal memory from then is of my Dad, leaning close to a radio, listening intently to the scratchy broadcast of the national championship game. But I was fortunate enough to watch all of Wil Robinson's home games during his WVU career. I can still picture his jump shot as clearly as if I'd seen it last week. Wil was a terrific shooter and a great player. Da'Sean is in the same category -- a terrific scorer, a more versatile player, a stronger rebounder, a team leader, a great player.

We've been lucky to watch Da'Sean Butler play, to cheer him on, to feel his disappointment along with him when he has a rare off-night or when WVU loses, and to see the joy in his great smile and share his elation on the many nights when he has excelled and the team has won.

He's been an outstanding player for WVU off the court, too. Never a misstep to tarnish the name on the back of his uniform, or the name on the front of it.

Thanks, Da'Sean. Thanks for being a Mountaineer. It's been a joy to watch you play.

Be sure to check out our three-part retrospective on Da'Sean Butler's career in the print edition of the Blue & Gold News!

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