Thursday, June 16, 2011

Opponents Turn Teammates

There has already been a lot of media attention focused on the two Butler basketball recruits who performed well in the Indiana vs Kentucky High School All-Star game this past week, but if I have learned one thing in my years as a Butler follower, it is that you can never have enough Butler news! So with that in mind, I decided to reach out to both Andy Smeathers and Kameron Woods about their experiences in the all-star game and got some thoughts on them both coming to play for Butler next season.

Although Indiana claimed another sweep over the Kentucky All-Stars this year, it is becoming apparent that this high school state rivalry is growing closer and closer. Anyone in attendance, or who watched the games online, witnessed two talented teams fighting their way through four quarters of physical, hard-nosed, basketball. Players dove after lose balls, took elbows to the face, battled for rebounds, and of course trash-talked throughout the game. Despite playing for opposite sides, Kentucky swing-man Kameron Woods and Indiana sharp-shooter Andy Smeathers poured out nothing but respect for each other. The future Butler teammates came away from the all-star series not only impressing fans, but also impressed with one another.

Smeathers admitted that this was the first time he had seen Woods play and was excited about what he saw. "Kam is a great player and it is obvious why he is coming to Butler... I feel as if he was maybe the best player on the Kentucky team." Smeathers added, "It's nice to see another skinny player on the court, but he plays bigger and stronger than he looks. He boards very well and get many blocks and can step outside and hit the 'J'. I am happy that from now on, he is going to be on my team."

During the first game of the all-star series, Woods (along with the rest of Indiana and Kentucky fans), got to witness exactly what Smeathers is capable of. Smeathers dropped a game high 21 points on his way to  help Indiana seal the first win over Kentucky. Woods, much like Smeathers, came away thoroughly impressed. "I think he is a really good player with a great shooting touch and who can also handle the ball, distribute, and defend," Woods said about Smeathers. He went on to agree that he would much rather play with Andy than against, and in just a few more days they will join each other at Butler to do just that.

With just 10 days remaining until the new recruits begin to move in for summer workouts, both Smeathers and Woods are looking to make an impact from day one. Kameron acknowledged his assist-minded high-school role, and explained he expects to score at the next level. "I was definitely a pass-first player at Eastern (High School) because my role wasn't to score on that team, but at the next level I expect to play a different role." He continued by saying that he will always be an unselfish player, but expects a bigger scoring role at Butler than he did in high school. Woods admits that he won't know what his role will be until he gets to practice, but that Butler fans should expect to see 100% effort from him no matter what.

Smeathers, who has heard all of the comparisons being made between him and former Butler star, Gordon Hayward, is planning not only to play like Hayward, but also wants to bring his own aspects to the Bulldogs. "I'm coming in with the thought of working hard so that I am able to get playing time as a Freshman. I want to prove all of the doubters wrong and show them that I am good enough to play major division I basketball. I want Butler fans to see a great basketball player (in me) who isn't selfish and puts his teammates first."

These two all-stars will join nationally ranked combo-guard Roosevelt Jones and Australian point guard Jackson Aldridge in Butler's stacked 2011 recruiting class. Brad Steven's and company have once again found student-athletes who fit the Butler mold and not only excel on the basketball court, but also in the classroom. It is however, encouraging to see Butler compete with the Big 6 schools for these recruits.

"Towards the end of my recruitment, it came down to Purdue and Butler and I loved both schools," Smeathers explained. "I felt as if Butler had the total package with the combination of school, sports, and coach's. The selling point for me was Coach Stevens. He is everything the media portrays him to be." Now that he has signed a letter-of-intent, Smeathers gets a lot of comments about his commitment to Butler. "When people ask me where I am going to school and I say Butler, they have an awe that comes over them almost. They seem stunned that me, a 6' 7" skinny white boy is going to play at one of the best programs in America."

Woods was in a similar situation, with interest in him sky-rocketing right before he decided to pick Butler. "My recruitment was just starting to pick up and had an offer from Boston College and schools like Clemson, Central Florida, and Ole Miss were just starting to call. But at the end of the day I chose early because I felt like Butler showed the most promise for what I was looking for and the most promise in helping my game. I also knew that at Butler there would never be an issue with personal egos and that we would always play defense first before worrying about offense."

Andrew Smeathers and Kameron Woods have both enjoyed successful high school campaigns with each earning deserved recognition for their basketball skill and hard work. As that chapter closed at the Indiana vs Kentucky All-Star game, another chapter has now opened for both and "Butler Nation" should be extremely excited and proud to help welcome our newest Bulldogs.

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