Mike O’Brien ’23
Chief Sports Editor
In our next edition of the Spire’s weekly Athlete Spotlight, I caught up with Austin Butler ‘21 of the Men’s Basketball team who’s also a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Over his collegiate career, Butler has put up historic numbers for the program, posting over 1,000 points through his first three years on the team. The 6’5” guard is also a bright student, earning a spot on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.
Below are some questions I was able to ask Austin about basketball, life, and upcoming goals and how these were all shaped over the last couple of months.
Q: The men’s basketball team seems to be going through a transitional period after playing under a new head coach last season, a challenging string of game results, and the transfer of a star player. Has the time that the team spent apart due to the pandemic provided time for the team to regroup and focus its efforts for this upcoming adjusted season?
A: I think the time apart due to quarantine really allowed our new team, especially with eight new guys, the chance to connect through zoom calls, group messages, group FaceTime and all that kind of stuff. And that time in quarantine allowed us to connect as a team even though we couldn’t be in person together. And as far as last year goes, myself and the team have basically forgotten about it and are looking forward to this season and working each day to get better for the days to come.
Q: The Patriot League has recently announced that non-conference games will be cancelled in favor of 18 conference games starting January 1st. How does this adjustment affect the team’s mentality to prepare for a season playing all games against conference rivals?
A: The decision that the Patriot League made to cancel non-conference games is obviously not something we wanted as competitors, but we have no control over that and will have to use these next three months to prepare for the games that count towards the postseason, and by not being able to play non-conference games we will really have to focus to prepare and make sure that we are ready to jump right into conference play. It gives us more time as a team to get connected and form that team chemistry so when January 1st comes around, we will be ready.
Q: Now that the team is back on campus for practice and training, what feels different and what feels the same about the current environment on the campus currently?
A: Given that classes are online and only a limited number of people are on campus, it is definitely a different lifestyle that we all aren’t used to, but there’s nothing we can do about it for now. We are making the most out of the opportunity that we have to be on campus, so at the end of the day we’re just grateful that we have the opportunity to be on campus with our team and be able to practice.
Q: Last season, you clocked a tremendous 1,029 minutes of playing time for an average of 31.3 minutes a game; ranking seventh all time in Crusader history for average minutes played in a season. This takes a great deal of conditioning and mental strength, so how were you able to stay in shape and mentally stay checked in throughout the pandemic?
A: I was able to stay in shape and stay ready while in quarantine by just having the mindset that people are out there working just as hard as me, so knowing that that drove me to work as hard as I could, so I knew that when quarantine is over and we were able to get back to playing basketball, I would be ready and in my best shape to compete at a high-level. It was definitely different though, because mentally I had to hold myself accountable to not get lazy with the amount of downtime that we had, so I tried my best to really focus on my diet and getting my workouts in both on the court and in the weight room, so I’d be ready when we were able to come back to campus.
Q: You’ve already eclipsed the 1,000 point mark during your three years as a player, a great achievement that many players set as a collegiate career goal. How did the time over the last few months shape your thinking in what goals you hope to achieve during your senior season?
A: Scoring 1,000 points and being able to do that in my three years here was definitely great. I’m thankful and blessed, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates and coaches that I am surrounded by; but as far as my goals for this upcoming season, I’m holding myself to a very high standard, and will make sure that I will do whatever it takes and whatever the team needs me to do to win and be successful. But at the end of the day, my only goal in my senior season is to win games. Other than just winning I want to win a championship and prove all those people that don’t believe in us wrong.
Q: During the final stretch of a close game, many players turn to the adrenaline the crowd provides in support of their team to pull out a close victory. What adjustments have you made to prepare for the lack of fans in the crowd due to the pandemic?
A: It will definitely be different playing with no fans and there’s nothing we can do about that, so all we can do is focus on what’s happening during the game. Without any fans, it’s honestly going to be easier to communicate with your teammates throughout the game, and we will have to find ways as a team to create our own energy throughout the game to give us that spark that we need in those close game situations.
Q: Heading into your final season as a player, what is the greatest piece of advice you’d impart on underclassmen student athletes that you learned yourself over the last couple of months?
A: I would say just to be where your feet are and attack one day at a time. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so make the most out of each day and be appreciative for the chance you have to be a Division 1 athlete at a highly ranked academic school. Always lead by example because when you lead by example, it makes others want to follow in your footsteps.
Thank you Austin for being able to share your experiences, and best of luck to the Holy Cross Men’s Basketball Team in the beginning of their Patriot League play beginning on January 1st.