Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Leadership Role Expected Out Of Rhody-Bound Butts

Roughly twenty minutes before an arduous workout at Village Academy High School in Delray Beach, Fla., 6-foot-7 forward Leroy Butts arrived carrying a pair of beet-red Air Jordans.

The flashy kicks are not all Butts, a post-graduate headed to Rhode Island, will carry this season.

 As an elder statesman amongst a flurry of new faces, Butts will carry the leadership mantle.

 He'll carry a bulk of the offensive load, utilizing versatility as a weapon.

A wiry forward with a knack for interior scoring last season, he'll also carry a new offensive arsenal.

Butts spent the entire summer working to refine these tools, developing a fluid 15-18 foot jumper and becoming more comfortable putting the ball on the deck.

At the collegiate level, survival is dictated by day-to-day progression.

Those capable of expanding, adjusting with new elements to their game each year?

They tend to last. They tend to stand the test of Division-I time.

"I think he'll definitely take on a bigger role for us offensively," said Elev8 head coach Chad Meyers, who inherits a bevy of wings and interchangeable guards this season.

"For 'Roy, the biggest thing is we want him to be a leader. He knows what we expect. He knows how hard we have to practice this week. He's been tremendous so far with his workouts, bringing energy. I think if you look back 12 months ago, when he got here and to where he is now, he's a totally different person."

Working on ball-handling as well as stepbacks with Ganon Baker, Butts said, helped him embrace the new role.

He's also more comfortable from mid-range and beyond, toting a funky left-handed slingshot.

Butts, a D.C. native, played with the D.C. Premier on the AAU circuit.

"Creating space for my shot selection and just being more versatile with the ball in my hands has helped," said Butts, who de-committed from Rutgers before deciding on Rhode Island in late June of 2014.

"The coaches, they expect me to be a leader. They want me to be great. They want me to bring the right effort and be way better than I was last year as a senior, being a post-grad. The summer was about grinding, getting in shape. I was grinding. Doing extra things, chasing 50-50 balls and rebounding and working more on my ball handling."

Last season, Butts was a supplementary scorer behind Kobie Eubanks and high-rising Jamal Gregory. Buckets came mainly on hustle points and from short range, as he was able to slither his way into the paint and take big rim-protecting forward/centers away from the rim.

This season, he'll be tasked with creating his own shot more.

He'll likely lean on a dependable shallow jumper.

 Elev8 will likely implement a two-man game with Cal-commit Tyson Jolly operating from the outside.

In the ensuing weeks, Butts will look to shore up the academic issue which prevented him from going directly to Rhode Island. He still needs a qualifying score on the ACT, which he'll soon re-take. The lack of a qualifying score set him back a year, as he is currently a post-graduate.

Most winter nights in sun-soaked South Florida so not include Blockbuster nights, or any indoor activity for that matter.

Butts, however, was sequestered in his dorm room watching URI games online this past winter.

"Just seeing myself in their offense helped sell me and it made me more comfortable picking Rhode Island," said Butts, a D.C. native.

"Seeing the bigs being more mobile on the perimeter, more inside-out, they get a lot of touches from the guards. At a lot of schools you just don't get that."

Helping steer Butts to Rhode Island was David Cox.

A Maryland/D.C.  area recruiting presence, Cox joined Rhode Island following stops at Georgetown and Rutgers.

His clout with the D.C. Premier (previously known as D.C. Assault) enabled Cox to recruit Butts thoroughly.

A Lanham, Md. native and cerebral passer at William & Mary in the mid-1990s, Cox kick-started his coaching career with the Assault.

"The entire coaching staff made me feel like family," said Butts.

"I wanted to go somewhere where I could fit in and play right away and do what I do best, which is just help the team win."