By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
Since his breakout sophomore season where he led Baylor men’s basketball in scoring averaging 16 points per game, expectations have been high for Jared Butler. Named the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and a first-team preseason All-American, Butler has been christened one of the best players in college basketball.
Under immense pressure to perform every night, the junior guard was the first to admit that he occasionally has trouble dealing with the pressure. But Butler has a unique way to deal with the expectations, not concerning himself with what others think about his performances, but with what God thinks.
“I think a lot of times for me I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and live up to this name that people have put on me,” Butler said. “But I think at the end of the day, it’s about what my Lord and Savior say about me, not about what any person or any ESPN rating or any NBA draft or NBA player says about me. It’s about what He says.”
This mindset has propelled Butler to one of the best careers in Baylor basketball history. The junior recently hit 1,000 career points, a milestone he didn’t know he had reached until he was told after the game.
The entire Baylor basketball team has also taken to Butler’s mindset, not focusing on the expectations that the nation had placed on them. Baylor head coach Scott Drew said his team isn’t concerned with the outside noise put on his team.
“We want to enjoy playing. I mean, it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun,” Drew said. “As long as we play the right way, play hard, play for each other, what other expectations people put on us, that’s their expectations. Our expectations are we do what we can do to be successful and go 1-0 on the court in each possession.”
Butler echoed Drew’s statement, saying the team prioritizes being thankful and playing with joy each and every game, especially during a global pandemic.
“We really pride ourselves on just being thankful in the situation that we have,” Butler said. “We just try to make sure that we love each other in those moments, and I think those are the moments that we play our best. We’re connected and thinking about each other and not the pressure of the game.”
Things haven’t all gone right for Butler this season, who has had his fair share of struggles on the court. Butler only scored eight points against Oklahoma and seven points against Texas Tech, abnormally low for a player of his caliber.
But Butler has had bounce-back games after each poor performance, scoring 28 against TCU and 30 against Kansas. Teammate Macio Teague said he’s always confident that Butler will be able to overcome his struggles quickly and play his best.
“Everybody’s going to have those off nights,” Teague said after Butler’s stellar performance against TCU. “I knew coming in that he wasn’t worried about those last few games. Every game is new to him and he came in and played hard.”
Butler said his key to overcoming these struggles was to have a short memory, always looking forward to the next game, half or possession.
“Especially in the game of basketball, you’ve got to have a short memory,” Butler said.
Butler has managed the expectations and improved in nearly every statistical category this season, averaging 16.7 points per game and 5.4 assists per game, both of which lead the Baylor team. Butler has also greatly improved his NBA draft stock, as many project him to be a solid first-round pick in next year’s upcoming draft.
It’s easy to see why Butler has been successful and if he can maintain his God-first attitude, the sky is the limit for the Reserve, La., native as a basketball player.