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Nobody ever promised Brandon Miller that being a head coach would be easy. But what the recently-hired Butler men's basketball coach is going to have to endure this winter is a bit ridiculous for a first-time head coach.
Miller's worst fear when he saw Bulldog junior Roosevelt Jones go down hard in a recent game in Australia was realized on Friday, as it was announced that Butler's leading returning player would not be available for the upcoming season due to a severe wrist injury.
“Roosevelt suffered an injury that resulted in ligament damage to his left wrist, and he'll undergo season-ending surgery,” Butler athletic trainer Ryan Galloy said in a release. “His prognosis is good and he's expected to make a full recovery for next season.”
Jones averaged over 10 points and nearly six rebounds per game, while also dishing out a team-best 3.5 assists per night. In short, he did just about everything for the Bulldogs.
He was the lone Butler player to start all 36 games in 2012-13, and he was looking to extend a streak of 67 consecutive starts in the upcoming season.
Now on top of Miller having to venture into the Big East Conference for the initial time, he will have to do so with a roster that has lost its top three scorers (Andrew Smith and Rotnei Clarke graduated).
Jones' absence doesn't just leave a hole at one position, his being unavailable – in a way – leaves a hole at nine positions.
The 6-foot-4 junior is capable of playing four different positions offensively, while he has the size, athleticism and strength to guard all five positions at the other end of the floor. Without Jones, Butler's strategies offensively and defensively are going to be altered heavily.
“Roosevelt has worked very hard to position himself to have a terrific junior year,” Miller said. “Having said that, Roosevelt is a tough-minded, determined young man, and I am confident he will return from this adversity an even better player and person.”
That's nice, but it won't do Miller any good against Georgetown in a few months.
The Bulldogs won't be short bodies to utilize this season, as the roster will have 16 players. However, four of those players are walk-ons (Alex Barlow, Michael Volovic, Elliott Kampen and Steven Bennett), four more are true freshmen (Nolan Berry, Elijah Brown, Rene Castro and Andrew Chrabascz), and three more are players who have very limited experience (Andrew Smeathers, Jackson Aldridge and Devontae Morgan).
With only five players having extensive experience (Barlow, Erik Fromm, Khyle Marshall, Kellen Dunham and Kameron Woods), it is a very real possibility that Miller will have to rely heavily on the four freshmen in a league that is physically bigger, stronger and more athletic than any Butler has ever encountered on a regular basis.
“They'll each contribute in their own way,” Miller said recently of the freshmen. “We're looking at those guys and they were all recruited for a purpose.”
Butler can more than likely rotate Barlow and Aldridge at the point guard spot. However, a developing Castro would truly benefit the Bulldogs if he is ready to do so.
At the wing spots, Dunham will play as much as he physically is capable of, but the Big East is a physical league that takes its toll on players, especially those who have no other scoring running mate and only weigh 185 pounds.
The same can be said for Brown and Smeathers (also 185 pounds), as well as Morgan (just 176 pounds). Only Dunham has shown consistency as a scorer, so where the Bulldogs' points come from remains to be seen.
Up front, it's the same story regarding physical deficiency without Jones in the lineup.
Fromm is 6-foot-8 and 223 pounds (small for a 4-5 in the Big East), while Marshall (6-foot-6) and Woods (only 200 pounds) also have their weaknesses.
A saving grace for Butler may be Berry, who brings a presence at 6-foot-10, and former Butler coach Brad Stevens said earlier this summer that the freshman forward had already bulked up to 230 pounds. He and Chrabascz will get serious looks to add depth behind the three veterans.
“The freshmen were all recruited to add value to Butler,” Miller said. “They are all talented and skilled in their own way.”
Butler fans will find out very quickly to what degree that talent can help salvage this challenging season.