Friday, April 11, 2008

We shall name him Brian Butch

I can remember the exact moment I found out Brian Butch had committed to Wisconsin.

In the fall of 2002, Jana and I were driving to work, and were passing St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Waupaca when Jack Barry was giving a rundown of the headlines we'd hear in that morning's newscast. "... and a nationally-ranked basketball recruit from Appleton commits to the Badgers ..."

The news elicited a gutteral yelp from me that took my wife by surprise. But not as much as my follow-up announcement: "Jana, I want to name our first son Brian Butch Tappa."

Of course, that didn't happen, although Bo Ryan Tappa is still on the table for #2 (right Babe?) ... although those initials would be one letter shy of BRAT.

This begs the question: when you're 18 years old and your college choice inspires yahoos in the sticks to pledge their first born's name in your honor, what do you have to do to not be considered an underachiever, as many have suggested over the past five years?

Win. And win. And win and win and win. Butch was a big contributor to Wisconsin teams that won 105 games, making him part of the winningest class in school history. To me that trumps anything else that can be said about Brian - and thankfully, his extended, triumphant senior season allowed more than enough nice things to be said about him - and makes him the most successful high-profile recruit in UW basketball history.

Kurt Portmann? He was a marginal contributor on some teams that made the NIT, but that's about it. Rashard Griffith? Had a couple nice years and went to the NCAA Tournament, but was only here for two years. Sam Okey? Same thing. Anyone else have other names to throw into the equation?

But, say the detractors, didn't Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson and Michael Flowers also have something to do with those 105 wins? Sure, but as I think Will mentioned in a comment on the Stiemsma post, if Butch doesn't break his arm at Ohio State, we might win the Big Ten last year and beat UNLV to reach the Sweet 16, and nobody is throwing around the word "empty" in conjunction with the 2006-07 Badgers. That team hit a wall at the end, and maybe a healthy Butch helps them get over that wall.

What's next for Brian? He's been racking up plenty of frequent flyer miles lately (interesting story here on about how much he's traveled since February). Hopefully he can find employment playing hoops after college. The NBA doesn't seem likely, he just doesn't have the athleticism to keep up. But his inside-out game could certainly play in Europe, where I imagine he'd be a big hit.

How will history remember Brian Butch as a Badger? All-conference pick? Underachiever? Polar Bear?

How about this: Winner.


frank said...

For the most part I think that even though Butch never became a big, big time player like I'm sure everyone expects McD's kids to be, I think Butch will be remembered well. He was pretty likeable, given that he went through all that stuff early in his career, his crazy elbow injury, and still fought back his senior year to be first team all Big Ten and be a part of a dual Big Ten championship team. And he had that signature moment at Indiana.

I know he wasn't Greg Oden or anything, but any Badgers fan who really dislikes Butch after the four years he gave UW has some issues.

Here's a question about high-ranked recruits -- what kind of recruit was Finley? I really have no idea.

Scott Tappa said...

Don't think Finley was a highly-ranked recruit, although he was a standout on a really good Proviso East team that included Donnie Boyce and Sherrell Ford.

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