Final Score: Butler Win 73-60.

August 6 is a notable day in history for a few reasons, particularly the fact that it was on this day in 1945 the USA dropped the first and only atomic bombs to be used in war on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. However, in terms of greatness, nothing can match the fact that 22 years ago, your intrepid and very handsome writer finally managed to escape his mum’s womb and enter the world.

I’ve received a few good birthday presents in my time, but few match up to hearing that not only were the Butler Bulldogs touring Australia but that they were playing their first pre-season game of the tour in Sydney, on my birthday. Clear the schedule, I got a game to attend.

This was also an important game for the Butler program, with head coach Brandon Miller marking his debut in this game as he takes over from highly-touted predecessor Brad Stevens, now of course the head coach of the Boston Celtics. With two Final Four appearances in the past three years, a relatively experienced squad and the team moving into the new major Conference USA, big things are expected of this once-unheralded program and fast.

“Fast” was the name of the game from the get go, as the Norths team immediately sought to make their name against the Bulldogs with a full court press. At first, Butler struggled to counter this tactic as the Bears’ shooters found form early to jump out to a 10 point lead midway through the first quarter.

The Doggieeez (sorry, NRL fan habit, can’t help it) were not helped when star sophomore forward Roosevelt Jones went down early in the game in clear pain with an arm injury. Originally some in the crowd suspected a broken wrist or forearm, however Butler management confirmed to your reporter at the end of the game that it was a bad sprain. Jones, mentioned in some circles as an NBA prospect, will be hoping to heal in time for the beginning of the season.

However, as the second quarter unfolded the Norths team began to show signs of fading and their previously-hyperkinetic press and defensive energy started to lapse. Butler immediately saw their opportunity and seized the lead midway through the second quarter, a lead which they would not concede for the rest of the game.

Towards the end, the Bulldogs’ class began to shine through as their stars, particularly forward Khyle Marshall and center Kameron Woods, had a number of athletic plays to enthrall the crowd. Guard Kellen Dunn also had a strong game, with a barrage of threes in the third and fourth quarter putting the game beyond doubt. Marshall in particular has some future NBA buzz around him, and if he can bulk up and develop his offensive game (particularly a solid mid-range jumper) a guy who plays with his energy and athleticism will find himself on an NBA roster somewhere.

I was particularly focused on Butler’s local star Jackson Aldridge in his homecoming game, having seen him a few times around the traps when we were starting from the bottom. (Difference of course being he made the top and I’m still here). While he didn’t set the box score on fire, he adapted to the press quicker than any of the other Butler guards and made several savvy passes in the half court game. I can see him playing in the NBL at some point at least.

All in all, a more than enjoyable way to spend my birthday afternoon. And who knows? My coverage of the Butler tour may not be done yet…keep watching over the next couple of days.


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