INDIANAPOLIS – The Butler basketball team is a resilient bunch.
They have had to overcome injuries, big deficits, and personal tragedy yet still have produced an impressive 20-4 record. This week, Butler will have to play without the services of 6-11 center Andrew Smith, but don’t expect his absence to hold the Bulldogs back.
“I’m really proud of our team’s maturity, it has been a challenging month in some ways. The most challenging aspect, and obviously the worst aspect was what (Erik) Fromm and his family went through and continue to go through, and then obviously the injuries to Rotnei (Clarke) and Andrew. We’ll just try to prepare for the next game with the guys that are available and try to coach and play as well as we can,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens Monday afternoon.
Smith suffered an abdomen injury during Saturday’s three-point victory over George Washington. While Stevens did not want to get into specifics regarding the injury or the treatment, he sounded confident about the senior’s ability to return and contribute sooner rather than later.
“He was in the middle of going for a loose ball and just got hit in the abdomen. I’ve seen the clip, I’ve seen it on film. (He) doubled over a little bit but didn’t show me anything that he was hurt and never said anything about being hurt until after the game,” said Stevens when asked about when the incident happened. “He got it taken care of. He is in great shape and will be great long-term, so we just have to figure out a way to play without him this week.”
Butler announced Monday that Smith received medical treatment when the team returned to Indianapolis; that he will be sidelined this week and will be re-evaluated next week.
Expect Stevens to construct a plan of attack without Smith on a game-by-game basis depending on the opponent.
“We’ll base it on what we think can be best in this match-up,” said Stevens. “Obviously Charlotte (Wednesday’s opponent) provides a whole lot of challenges, so that will be a tough decision.”
The Butler players talked about the challenges of filling Smith’s void during this week’s games.
“Everybody on this team has to pick it up, whether you play the 4 or 5, or even the guards. He does so much for our team that really isn’t seen,” said sophomore Kameron Woods of Smith.
“Andrew plays a lot of minutes for us. He is our second leading scorer on this team, so that’s big shoes to fill for us the next couple of games,” added junior Khyle Marshall.
“If that is the case that I do start on Wednesday, my mentality is still the same, I still try to play hard and do what is best for the team. I think we have a lot of guys that are ready to step up and take whatever challenges that Coach Stevens presents to them,” said junior Erik Fromm.
Butler is currently in a three-way tie for first place in the Atlantic-10 with a 7-2 league record. The Bulldogs moved up from 14th to 11th in this week’s Associated Press poll.