|Did Butler just lose its best player? (US Presswire)|
The release came just prior to the mammoth news began to circulate that UConn's Jim Calhoun was set to retire. It wasn't quite the same level of bombshell, but it was a pretty big hit on the Butler campus.
The headline read as follows: "Chrishawn Hopkins Dismissed from Butler Basketball Squad."
I'm already tired of hearing how Butler has the depth and talent to replace Hopkins.
Let's call it what it is: The Bulldogs losing their starting guard is a significant blow, especially if Brad Stevens & Co., are set to make legitimate noise in their first season in the A-10. This Butler team had just about everything in place to make a run for the Atlantic 10 crown in its inaugural campaign, but the loss of Hopkins is major.
He was arguably the team's most talented player.
Well, now he's gone -- a casualty of a repeat rules violation. I"m not sure exactly what the 6-foot-1 guard did to earn the boot, but he was set to be a major piece of why Butler would return to national relevance after a one-year hiatus.
He averaged 9.1 points in just 23 minutes per game last season while starting 24 contests, but this year he was slated to start alongside Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke and form one of the most potent backcourts in the entire country. Sure, Stevens still has other options -- Aussie sophomore Jackson Aldridge or freshman shooter Kellen Dunham appear to be the leading candidates.
But they can't replace Hopkins. He's the best athlete on the team (Khyle Marshall is a close second), but he's more than just an athlete. He could shoot it well enough and, more importantly, he can break people down and create his own shot. That's something that he did more effectively than anyone else on the team. Clarke is a shooter who is making the adjustment to the point guard position. Dunham is a straight gunner right now -- and Aldridge is ideally suited as a backup point guard.
Butler needed Hopkins. Badly.
"He's different than anyone else they have," said one coach familiar with the Bulldogs. "He doesn't have to do it within the system. He's able to manufacture things himself."
Now Stevens will have to figure out whether to insert Aldridge in the starting lineup, which may be the right move in an effort to take some of the ballhandling pressure off Clarke. The combo of Clarke and Dunham in the backcourt would give the Bulldogs as prolific a perimeter shooting duo as there is anyone in the country, but defense would be a major concern. There's also the possibility of going with freshman Chris Harrison-Docks.
The starting unit of Clarke, Hopkins, Marshall, Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Smith had it all: Experience, perimeter shooting, athleticism, balance, etc.
Without Hopkins, something is missing. It could wind up being an A-10 crown.