Antonio Butler-“The basketball dream was dead for me”
Welcome to exposure Thursday. On this day we give exposure to Antonio Butler who has shown hard work and dedication throughout their career so far. Antonio Butler from Virgina, USA finished his college carrer at Slippery Rock (NCAA DII) and has signed his first pro contract for Luxemborg club AS Soleuvre. As a senior in 2014-15, the 6’4 guard had a career year averaging of 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.9 steals to leading his team to a 21-11 record and a second round exit of the NCAA DII tournament.
His story has not been a straight line at all. We caught up with him find out more about his story: –
BG: Hey Antonio, tell us who you are and your basketball journey up untill now?
AB: I’m Antonio Butler from Lorton, Virginia. I’ve been playing the game of basketball since I could walk. Basketball has always been a game that came to easy to me, I just had a natural connection to the game. Usually I was the biggest guy on the team so I was forced to play the center position. I actually liked playing down low, I thought it was more fun than playing on the wing. Even at that time I was still working on my skills just so if necessary I could go out on the wing.
In high school I was a good player, I just didn’t show my true talent. I felt as though I held myself back for whatever reason, but in doing so I was passed on a lot of awards and I wasn’t recruited that much at all. I chose to go to Delaware State University out of high school and try to walk on to the team. That goal didn’t go as planned so for my first year out of high school I was just a regular student. The basketball dream was dead for me at that point. That had to be one of my lowest points ever not being able to play on a team for the first time since I was a baby.
I ended up going to Junior College at Garrett Community College. Once I got there I started to get back in the groove of playing basketball and had a great two years there, but once again I wasn’t recruited much by the big schools like I wanted to. I ended up going to Slippery Rock University where I was just another guy on the team. I was no longer the man, which for me was a hard adjustment to make; however I played my role for the team because I knew my talent would breakthrough eventually.
My senior year I was considered the man again, I was given the green light to showcase my talent and I had a terrific year putting myself in position to have a pro career. I graduated and I thought I was going to get an agent and get a pro contract right away, but once again things didn’t go how I thought they would. I ended up with nothing and had to return home empty handed. At that point I thought basketball was over for me and I had given up. Things ended up changing in my favour, someone saw my talent for what it was and decided to give me an opportunity.
That’s why today I can say I’m a professional basketball player.
BG: Your junior college coach Dennis Gibson was inducted into the NJCAA hall of fame. What did you learn from him?
AB: What I learned from Coach Gibson is there’s more to being a good basketball player then putting the ball in the basket. The best players are the best leaders on and off the court, but there are many types of leaders, I just needed to figure out which one I was. Yelling or getting frustrated wasn’t always the way to go when trying to lead other men who are your same age.
BG: What are your expectations of European pro ball?
AB: I expect pro ball to be an eye opener. I know playing in Europe is going to test my basketball abilities, while also helping me gain experience in the game from a different vantage point. Once I finish this year I expect to be a completely better basketball in every aspect of the game.
BG: Tell us about your senior year at Slippery Rock
AB: My senior year was very memorable, as an individual and as a team there were a lot of goals that were set, and eventually were reached. As a senior I personally wanted to go out on a high note, I wanted to leave my mark on the program. As a team we did very well posting a 21-11 season mark which was good enough to earn us a berth in the NCAA division 2 national tournament. In the tournament we were able to win our first game against our conference rival Gannon University, which in my two years at Slippery Rock I was never able to do. This meant the world to me being able to get a win against that team when it really counted.
BG: Did you achieve your goals for this season?
AB: I was definitely able to achieve most of my goals my senior year. I set out to be the leader of my team, to up my averages in every category, to lead my team to the post season and to win certain awards. I ended up leading the team in scoring with an avg of 16 points per game, I was able to be elected to the conference first team and the regions second team. The only goal I wasn’t able to reach was to be an All American.
BG: What are your goals for the summer as it pertains to getting better?
AB: My goal is simple, I want to grow at every aspect of the game. There is no perfect ball player everyone can develop their game even more. I’ll mainly be working on shooting the ball with more consistency. I’m very confident in my game and what my abilities are. I’m a big guard so I want to stay in the weight room and continue to improve my strength.
BG: Where is the most memorable experience during your career so far?
AB: My most memorable moment playing the game of basketball happened took place when I played my first varsity game in high school. This moment sticks out the most because I use to be nervous and not sure about my game. Once I started playing varsity I realized that I could play this game and play it at a very high level. At the time I just needed the confidence, once I got it I was able to elevate my game and I haven’t looked back since.
BG: What do you tell anyone who wants to get better and play Pro ball?
AB: Continue to work, if your dream is to play professional ball keep grinding don’t ever lose sight of what you want to do. There’s a team for everyone out here who can play the game, if you continue to work your hard work and dedication will pay off. No matter what believe in yourself, if you don’t believe in what you can do and what you can accomplish no one else will.
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Antonio Butler’s senior Year Highlights