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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Butler starting to find her game at UConn

A couple of things took place at Tuesday's practice involving Natalie Butler that caught my eye.

First, Butler took the court with nothing on her left hand, wrist or thumb. There was no tape, no splint, nothing limiting the sophomore center's range of motion. Then in a drill, I saw Butler aggressively post up in perfect position to catch, shoot and score. However when the ball landed in her hands, Butler didn't even turn and look at the basket. Acting as if it was a hot potato, Butler fired a pass to a closely-guarded Breanna Stewart on the perimeter.

I brought up both topics with Butler after Tuesday's practice. I especially wanted to know if there was a time when she took off the splint and wanted to take her frustrations out on the protective unit she has been wearing for what much seem like an eternity to her.

"(Monday) during practice I got frustrated because the ball kept bouncing off of it and I had a lot of tape so I ripped it off and just threw it," Butler said. "I was so mad so I kind of had that reaction of 'I am not playing with this thing.' I was cleared so I was allowed to do that. You have to get adjusted to it again because I have mobility with the splint, there was a splint underneath my tape so it was restricted, it is weird being able to catch the ball, it is weird being able to shoot left handed with motion and mobility so it is going to be an adjustment but I happy that it is finally out."

Butler was a double-double machine as a freshman at UConn which made her quick pass to Stewart when she was in perfect in position to score in the lane somewhat surprising to me.

"One thing for me is I try to be a good teammate, I want to get teammates open and I want to get open shots," Butler said. "In that case, that was not a smart decision because she was covered and I had a wide open baseline layup. It is one of those things where you have to make a smarter decision on the court.
"Getting that feel, it is completely different playing with these guys. Last year I played more a defensive role (in practice) so being on offense, playing with them in games, it is an adjustment. It is reading those situations, when do you pass it? When do you shoot? When is it your time to go 1 on 1? It is just learning and it is going to come with time. You can see other players go through it and improve like the freshmen who can in last year.

"The way I was raised with basketball is if you are in the paint you score and that is what Coach (Marisa) Moseley, Coach (Chris) Dailey and Coach Geno say all the time. I know that and the thing is that when you are being triple teamed, double teamed or you have two big post players on you, you know they are collapsing inside and that is when you kick it outside and you are opening things up for the offense, once it passes inside and you score, you know they are going to collapse you are have to kick it out to the open 3 and if they get rushed at, you are wide open in the post so it is like a give and take system and you have to realize that."

If you take away the South Florida game on Jan. 10 when she only played the final 31 seconds, Butler is averaging 9.3 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 62.5 percent. While those numbers pale in comparison to the 13.9 points and 13.3 rebounds Butler averaged as a freshman with the Hoyas, she has done enough to think she has a bright future at UConn. Her best effort came in last night's win over Central Florida as Butler, who had not scored more than 11 points in any game with the Huskies, had 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting. She also had six rebounds and three assists.
With starting forward Morgan Tuck set to miss the rest of the game this month as she rests her surgically-repaired right knee, this is the best time for Butler to shake off some of her rust and make an impact with the Huskies.
"It is a mindset and I think right now, it is mind over matter more than anything else," Butler said. "One day at a time get the train going, try to get back on track. It is a special feeling and I want to be a part of what they are doing. I definitely feel like there is a role for me and I just have to continue working."

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