BUFFALO, N.Y. —
Da’Sean Butler was in a New York state of mind.
Seems like he usually is.
Or should that read a New York State of mind?
His home may be in New Jersey but he’s New York through and through, which is good, considering West Virginia is in the midst of what it hopes will be seven games in New York State.
First there were the three Big East Conference Championship games in Madison Square Garden where Butler made like Light-fingered Looie of Toity-Toid and Toid Street, picking not only Cincinnati’s pocket but Georgetown’s en route to the title.
Now he moves here to face Morgan State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and if WVU survives two games here they move on to Syracuse for potentially two games.
East side, west side
All around the town,
The tots sang “Ring-a-Rosie”
London Bridge is falling down
—The Sidewalks of New York
Da’Sean Butler belongs in New York.
History says so, history he’s made.
He’s played in the state of New York 16 times in his career. He averages 17.6 points a game and that includes two games as a freshman where he scored five points and six, something he remedied in the finals of the NIT that year, scoring 20 as West Virginia beat Clemson for the title in Madison Square Garden.
Six times he’s scored 20 in New York, once 33 when playing at St. John’s.
And, of course, there’s a pair of game-winning shots on the resume that came in Madison Square Garden as West Virginia was winning its first Big East championship.
That’s when the tots sang “Ring-a-Rose” and London Bridge should have fallen down.
Boys and girls together
Me and Mamie O’Rourke
We trip the light fantastic
On the sidewalks of New York
—The Sidewalks of New York
This one was special, this Big East title, for Da’Sean Butler.
See, Spike Lee was there. He was something of a hero to Butler, seeing as both of them were New York Knick fans.
That’s right, Butler loves the Knicks and loves the Garden.
He knows about Patrick Ewing, the Knickerbocker Ewing, that is, not the Georgetown one.
They listened to Walt Frazier, a Knick hero, the radio analyst with the smooth delivery, speaking in rhymes, firing out big words he’d find in the dictionary he carries with him and reads on the road. He tosses about words like “ubiquitous”, much as he used toss the basketball around.
He knows about Bill Bradley, the basketball player and the senator, and that Phil Jackson was a Knick before he was a coach. He remembers Charles Oakley and knows the legend of Willis Reed and now he has been there and done that, been a Madison Square Garden hero.
Oh, it bothered him to see Spike Lee there wearing a Georgetown jersey.
“I was looking for him after making the shot against Georgetown,” Butler admitted.
In the crowd and the celebration, he couldn’t find him, Spike Lee having headed for an exit with Georgetown gear.
It was just like watching the Knicks. He was a loser.
“No,” Butler would say a day later, “I wasn’t going to give him the Reggie Miller choke sign if I found him. I didn’t like Reggie Miller, either.”
Once a Knick fan …
Start spreading the news
I’m leaving today.
I want to be part of it
New York, New York
—New York, New York
It’s nice to go home.
Butler is from across the river, right there through the Lincoln Tunnel from midtown Manhattan. Takes you to Jersey, to Newark.
It was once a really tough city. The years, though, have been kind to it and while other areas in New Jersey got worse, it improved some.
There’s pride when Butler calls it home.
It’s where his mother and father, Roysette and John Wilson, are. Talk about doing a good job bringing your kid up in a tough place.
“He was a winner when he came to me at Bloomfield Tech, and I always felt I was a better coach and Bloomfield Tech was a better place because he was there,” Nick Marinello, Butler’s high school coach who has moved on to Hudson Catholic, told NorthJersey.com. “He was such a humble kid who cared so much about his teammates, who cared so much about winning and winning the right way. I thought he was too unselfish and he was severely underrecruited because he was so unselfish.”
John Beilein found him and brought him to West Virginia, played him as a freshman, saw him as a shooter.
Bob Huggins inherited him and fell head over heels in love with him — his skills, his attitude.
“He’s a great player and a better person,” Huggins said.
And it goes back to the upbringing. That’s why it’s always special in New York and New Jersey when he plays and his mother can see him.
“She loves me,” Butler said. “She loves basketball but doesn’t know much about it. She sits there and smiles and enjoys the game, but she doesn’t know what’s going on.”
He laughs when he says it.
His father is an emotional man.
“He’ll drop a tear in a minute,” Butler said.
I want to wake up
In that city that doesn’t sleep,
And find I’m king of the hill,
Top of the heap
—New York, New York
The thing about Da’Sean Butler is that he isn’t one of those here and now kids, today’s generation thinking it is the only generation to write history.
Butler is interested in what transpired in the past, not only with his beloved Knicks, but right here in West Virginia, where they sing “Country Roads”, not “New York, New York”.
He’s one of three 2,000 point scorers at the school, the others having played in the dark ages of basketball, Jerry West and before him Hot Rod Hundley.
“I’ve watched some film of Hot Rod Hundley,” Butler admits. “Pretty entertaining.”
Hundley did the Globetrotter routine in real basketball games, hook shots from the corner, line up and run a football play, sit down on the other team’s bench.
Anything for a laugh … and 2,000 points.
Hundley isn’t the only one who can do the impossible. Take the game-winning 3-point shot at the buzzer against Cincinnati.
Butler was 3-for-19 shooting when he let go of the 3 against Cincinnati. Some say he was lucky that it banked in.
Don’t bet on it.
Like another New York hero, Babe Ruth, Butler called his shot.
“He called it,” Lance Stephenson, the Cincinnati freshman out of New York, would say after the game. He was guarding Butler and he heard it. “He said ‘Bank.’ I said, ‘What?’ I turned ’round and saw it go in. Oh, man.’”
It is like Billy Joe and Jay-Z have said:
It was so easy living day by day
Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
But now I need a little give and take —
The New York Times, The Daily News
—New York State of Mind
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org