Jamar Butler, despite voicing his frustrations earlier this season, made his final walk to the Schott's locker room with a smile on his face.
Ok, more like a smirk.
Butler and the Bucks beat Dayton last night, advancing to the NIT semi-finals in NYC. Below is the post-game interview. After he is dismissed we are treated to one of the more endearing images of his prolific career: A cluster of fans in the otherwise empty stands give Butler a farewell cheer as the senior sheepishly tugs on the towel slung over his neck and amicably acknowledges the home crowd for the last time.
The undisputed leader of the basketball Bucks since Terence Dials left will be remembered for his receding hairline, multiple school records, prison tats, and, perhaps above all, enigmatic and humble demeanor. On a more existential level, Butler, recruited during his Mr. Basketball campaign and before Matta arrived, is a rare relic that links to the Jim O'Brien era. Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer writes:
The winningest player in Ohio State history, so famously grumpy after defeats, has been the con stant, the link from coach Jim O'Brien to coach Thad Matta, from center Terence Dials to center Kosta Koufos, from a 2005 postseason ban to the 2007 Final Four. Over four years, he has started 111 games with 15 other players, switched positions from point guard to shooting guard and back again, emerged as Ohio State's all-time leader in assists and 3-pointers, and made his name as a defender, distributor and scorer.
"We always felt like no matter who came or who went, he was always kind of the glue," said his mother, Nancy. "He was always a needed piece to the puzzle no matter what team it was."
Butler is the most unlikely soon-to-be OSU record book reference in recent memory. Though certainly a catch out of high school, he arrived on campus with a Brent Darby complex: thrown into the mix too soon; before loosing that freshman 15. His four year tenure, like that of classmate Matt Terwilliger, already sounds like a misprint in this age of one-and-dones. Butler's path into the annals of OSU legend seems even more round about when compared to that of NBA fast-trackers Daequan Cook and Mike Conley Jr., former teammates who's skill sets are similar to Butler's.
Conley, who inadvertently crashed Butler's coming out party last season, appeared to be the next fan favorite of the winter season. He was a bit undersized with some wrinkles to smooth out, soft-spoken and comfortable playing second fiddle to the big man down low. It could be argued that if Ron Lewis missed that epic three-pointer against Xavier to advance to the Sweet 16 last year, Conley would have never been considered a lottery pick and returned for at least one more season. But, as Gus Johnson can tell you, that shot was destined to fall just as Conley was destined for greener pastures.
All this is to say that Butler is a special player for the very reasons he is not an exceptional player (like Conley or sometimes Cook.) As the Matta recruiting machine gains momentum each season, devouring the top high school talent near and far, the Jamar Butler's of the game will be spit out and distributed to other sleeping giant programs in need of their services. He and his workman-like efforts will be fondly remembered, as he is emblematic of an already-dated aesthetic. If Greg Oden and the Thad Five built the towering framework for an era when Buckeye basketball will begin it's ascent to "powerhouse" status, then Jamar Butler laid the foundation.