His Loss is His Gain

Fifteen pounds overweight and unhappy with his game, fifth-year senior Brian Butch goes into the offseason with a whole new outlook. The results of that sacrifice have led Wisconsin to the top of the Big Ten.

MADISON - Every incoming college freshman has heard the ‘Freshman 15' lecture; that the average college freshman gains 15 points in their first semester on campus.

Four years ago, Brian Butch must have missed that lecture.

Coming onto campus in fall 2003, Butch was fresh off scoring a Kohl Center record 45 points in the state tournament for Appleton West high school and earning his second state player of year honor. But weighing in at 198 pounds as a freshman, Butch knew that his lanky frame was not going to make him as dominant in the college game.

Knowing that the Wisconsin coaching staff wanted him heavier, Butch chewed and drank the scales up to a weighty 245 pounds two years ago. After hovering around 238 pounds last season, Butch knew that things had to change for him to be more of a versatile threat.

"I thought if I eat everything in sight, drink all the stuff I was told to drink and I did not need to have that stuff," Butch said. "I got fat. All the weight I put on was not good weight. Once I saw that, I knew that I had to look at it and change things up because I knew that I could be better and quicker.

"Foot work and weight loss go hand in hand with all of that and being able to make some moves."

With the realization came a reverse in his training and preparation. No more burgers, pizza and late night snacks. Instead, Butch stayed with the fruits and vegetables and focused on improved his agility.

"I cut out the college food," Butch said. "I think everyone can relate to that."

In 27 games, the ‘fruits' of Butch's labor are staying to pay off.

Averaging 12 points, seven rebounds in 26 games, Butch not only has picked up the scoring, but has been able to defend opponents that are seemingly quicker than he is.

"During the Big Ten season now, I have as much energy as any of the three years I have been here," he admitted. "I feel quicker off the floor, defending ball screens and even guarding people that are quicker than me. I feel like I can handle them."

Although performing well at home, Butch has saved some of his best performances on his final road trips.

He showcased his new skills when he held his own against the more athletic inside players from Texas, finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds in the Badgers' one-point win.

At Purdue, Butch registered his fourth double-double of the season (20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds), but it was how he scored his points - putting the ball on the floor, drawing fouls, tip ins and hitting three-pointers – that showed people that Butch is a different kind of player.

"What you see is a fifth-year player and looking around, realizing he is one of the old men in the league," said assistant coach Howard Moore said. "You gain confidence through that because you have been through the wars and the battles. Now, he's in a situation that he's very season, battle tested and his career his winding down. He's going to have that urgency and that aggressiveness to come out and perform every night."

Through a debatable redshirt coming out of high school as an All-American, a struggling bout with mononucleosis in 2005 and a gruesome dislocated elbow injury a year ago that cost him the rest of his junior season, Butch's change of habit helped him reach an historical mark few Badgers ever achieve on Sunday.

Needing eight points to become the 32nd Badger to reach 1,000 career points, the senior's midrange jumper with 6:25 left in the game put him one point over the century mark.

"I think it's a pretty good accomplishment," Butch said. "A lot of it goes back to going out and fighting through things. Things always haven't gone my way and that's been pretty obvious. I just want to go out there, keep on playing. That's just the way my game is. If things aren't going, keep on going until it gets going."

More importantly, the bucket was part of a 9-0 Wisconsin that helped seal the Badger victory, which is just the way Butch wanted it.

"I would rather win," Butch said. "I would rather have a couple Big Ten championships to my name before the time I leave here, and that's how I want to be remembered."

With three games remaining in the 2008 regular season, Butch will have that opportunity to lead the Badgers to their first regular season conference title since 2003.

And he's done that by shedding the pounds, the critics and his opponents.

"Brian needed to get stronger and distribute that weight throughout his body evenly so he can continue to be moving and hold people off," Moore said. "You're seeing the accumulation of that now and he's reaping the benefits of that work now."

Badger Nation Top Stories