The father asked his son to not be shy, just go up and request a quick picture. The boy didn't much want to bother the gentleman, though. He was a basketball coach at a big school, after all.
But the boy, all of 11 years old, happily walked over and asked.
Of course Scott Drew was going to take that picture.
But what Drew didn't know -- what no one could have known -- was that the boy who came up to him and asked for the photo, Jared, well he'd grow into a pretty good basketball player himself. He'd meet Drew again later in life.
He'd play for him, in fact.
Eleven-year-old Jared would go on to be one of the best high school players in Louisiana. Jared was Jared Butler. And six and a half years after the chubby-cheeked kid posed for a pic with Drew, the young man would make his way to Baylor and become part of a program, a team, that now looks like the best in college basketball.
"That's like hitting the lottery, you know," Drew told CBS Sports.
"I remember it, 100%," Butler said earlier this week. "It was a high school game between Riverside Academy and St. Augustine, when I think they had Craig Victor and Javan Felix. The high school I was at was a pretty basketball-heavy high school and every game they played it was like a party. They'd play 'Eye of the Tiger' before the game, lights would go off, there'd be like a disco ball. The game was packed. LSU and one other school was there, plus Coach Drew."
Drew was there to recruit Rico Gathers, who would eventually go on to play at Baylor. After the game, Jared's father, Richard, told him to go get that pic. When Richard introduced himself to Drew that night, he told him his son was a pretty nice guard as well. At that point, Jared was already playing travel basketball for a good team that was competing in out-of-state tournaments.
"Coach Drew did that laugh he does," Butler said. "He said something like, 'OK, all right, well good luck! Keep going!'"
Dad saved the photo to his phone, then saved it to his computer. Years later, when Drew went for an in-home visit while recruiting Jared, Richard showed him the shot. The boy had grown more than eight inches, maybe even a foot. He was a star for Riverside Academy, the same school Gathers had turned himself into a big-time player.
Butler's final three schools were Virginia, Baylor and Alabama. He initially committed to, and enrolled at, Alabama because he was confused as to why Baylor didn't recruit him harder earlier. Butler attended the same high school not just as Gathers, but also former Bear Tweety Carter. And his coach, Tim Byrd, was close friends with Drew.
"It seemed weird that I wasn't getting recruited by Baylor until the last period," Butler said. "So I thought maybe they didn't want me as much. I was told later they didn't have a spot [initially] and were guard-heavy. I don't know why I took it personally but I did."
But then Butler doubled back and was able to transfer to Baylor and have a spot on the roster, in part because of Jake Lindsey's premature, unfortunate retirement. Lindsey was forced to give up playing basketball due to a Parsonage-Turner diagnosis. Butler was approved for a waiver and played in 2018-19. Now, as a sophomore, he's become the team's best player by averaging 16.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists and making 40% of his 3-pointers. Butler is a big reason Baylor's No. 2 in the polls and has the best resumé in college basketball.
The Bears play Wednesday night at home vs. Iowa State.
"Jared's always had confidence and ability, and when you have those two that gives you a chance," Drew said. "Learning under Makai (Mason) and learning from him -- when you have a great player you're with, that Batman/Robin, it doesn't mean he's Batman as a freshman, so he wasn't exposed more. A lot of times the best defender guarded Makai. In the biggest couple of months, you see it with Kentucky freshmen all the time, if they can survive the first couple of months, they're good. Jared did, and now he's really shining."
Butler accounts the 13-1 start to the fact that nearly half the roster is comprised of players who have come from other schools -- and some from below the Division I level.
"The type of people on the team aren't the usual five-star highly recruited athletes," he said. "We've got all these guys who did not have anything given to them. And now these guys are looking for blood. When I say people are in the gym constantly, it's one of the most competitive things I've ever been around."
So competitive that Butler and some of his teammates celebrated ringing in New Year's Eve by getting shots up and running drills -- on their own accord -- in Baylor's practice gym. Butler had no date to snub; he said he can't decide whether he wants a girlfriend at this point in his life because he does not want to sacrifice anything in this potential dream season.
"I have commitment issues," Butler said. "I'll never get a tattoo because I couldn't commit to it."
Butler said he was in the gym on New Year's Eve until 1:37 a.m. The late-night run came a day after Baylor whooped Jackson State by 26. But the time put in is how you kill the albatross that was Baylor's o-fer at the Phog. I asked Butler to sum up the 67-55 win over Kansas. It crystallized naturally.
"Everybody expected to win," Butler said. "And when I say 'expected' it's different. We're going through film and watching film on the guys and we had respect for them, but at the same time we know how good we are and in the game, there was a point in the game where everybody knew and we'd go to the bench and say, 'We're good enough.' We felt like we're better than this team and we had to really play it out."
For Drew, now in his 17th year, it was a baptism by water bottle in the locker room afterward -- and then celebratory mushroom pizza with his family the next day, a rare off day. He said he had an all-time high for unread text messages, north of 250. Even more than after he made Elite Eights in 2010, 2012. Drew knows the perception of his team was elevated with that win. Baylor went from pretty solid squad to verified national title contender thanks winning at Kansas. Butler had 22 vs. KU and was the Bears' most important player yet again.
It's all starting to feel serendipitous in Waco this season. It was the 2011-12 season back when young Jared walked up to Drew. Some weeks later, Drew would go on to make his second Elite Eight. The Bears haven't made it that far since, but how fitting that it's Butler and this year's team that is the best suited -- and strongest -- to get Baylor back into the depths of the Big Dance bracket.
Maybe even a Final Four. That's how you take a cool little story like this and turn it into an epic one.
Virginia and the sub-40 trend
Four teams this season have failed to score 40 points against Virginia. The Wahoos are a case of extremes, ranking No. 2 in defensive efficiency and No. 229 in offensive efficiency. That 227-spot difference is second-most among all defense-leaning teams. Only Old Dominion (No. 65 on offense, No. 315 on defense) has a greater ranking disparity.
If Virginia (11-4) is to make the NCAAs -- and I believe it will -- then it's borderline-historic defense may need to pull off one or two more suffocations. Suffocation = holding an opponent below 40. With Georgia Tech (195th offense) and Boston College (251st) still on the schedule, it may happen again. But Wednesday's road test at No. 9 Florida State looms large. UVA's scoring defense is at 48.7-per game. The dream to keep opponents under 50 on the whole is still alive. (Early-'90s Princeton is the only other team to do it in the shot clock era.)
Of course, Virginia's so much better at this than everyone else. Since 2009-10, here's who's held opponents to fewer than 40 points the most times:
- Virginia: 29
- Wisconsin: 17
- Purdue: 12
- Louisville: 11
- Stephen F. Austin: 11
- Old Dominion: 11
- North Carolina Central: 11
- Florida: 10
- Cal Poly: 10
Button pressed on the coaching carousel
We've had two firings -- and three other openings, technically speaking -- in college basketball. Last week, Russ Pennell was cut loose from Central Arkansas. On Monday, UNC Wilmington announced it was firing C.B. McGrath 84 games into his tenure. (McGrath is a former Roy Williams assistant; Williams is really having a rough season all around.) If circumstances insist upon it, I'm not entirely against firing a coach during the middle of the season (maybe it's an escape route to potentially keep the locker room from combusting entirely), but it's usually a hard sell on being the right move.
Nevertheless, McGrath was fired after landing just two wins vs. D-I competition this season. And this at a school that's made six NCAA Tournaments since 2000. The job will be coveted at that level, as UNCW is a top-four gig in the Colonial. With McGrath's ouster, here are the five with interim tags.
- Central Arkansas: Anthony Boone
- Idaho: Zac Claus
- IUPUI: Byron Rimm
- Northern Arizona: Shane Burcar
- UNC Wilmington: Rob Burke
Two more openings could materialize in the coming weeks because two coaches are currently serving suspensions: Evansville's Walter McCarty (Title IX investigation) and North Carolina A&T's Jay Joyner (undisclosed).
Have a question, curiosity or complaint? Do @ me. Lob your questions my way on Twitter.
Which ‘P5’ school is hardest to win at: Rutgers, DePaul or Washington State.— Mitch Gilfillan (@mitchgilfillan) January 15, 2020
Good Q. "P5" is a football term, so get that noise out of here, Mitch. The answer is the Cougars of Washington State. Hardest geography-wise, has been relevant like three seasons in the past 35 in college basketball. Rutgers is a building a fire out of twigs every day, but at least the region is good and you can maybe get lucky with borderline players in the Northeast. DePaul by far is the best gig. Good new arena, great area, good history.
How high can Clemson finish in the ACC with it being wide-open after Top 3/4 teams?— Connor Edwards (@ConnorEdwards10) January 15, 2020
Have to love the pluck of Clemson fans after consecutive wins over UNC and Duke for the first time in 30 years. You're right, the ACC is wide open, perhaps more so than we've seen in a decade. I'd peg Clemson's ceiling at sixth.
Could the A10 get more bids than the ACC?— Benjamin Lanka (@BenLanka) January 15, 2020
Think we might see some B1G teams with sub .500 conference records in the dance?— Nick Leloia (@nleloia42) January 15, 2020
This is a guarantee and I'm already annoyed by the intellectually dishonest critiques that are going to come from it. A 9-11 Big Ten team will make the NCAAs.
Is a Baylor a lock to win the big 12— do something theo (@FIREGARPAX5) January 15, 2020
Of course not. But how about this: If Baylor beats Iowa State Wednesday night, it will be just the fourth time BU's begun 4-0 in Big 12 play (1998, 2008, 2012).
Is Brad Davison still the most hated player in college basketball?— Nick Loucks (@Nicks2Cents) January 15, 2020
He's not and I'm not convinced he ever really got there. Just a regional hatred, centralized among Big Ten fans. Now that you bring it up, at this point in the season I don't think college basketball even has a polarizing and/or hated player. Is Brad Davison really that guy? Let's check back in come late February.
- Courtesy of Kevin Pauga: we are now more than 50% of the way through the game inventory of the 2019-20 season. It's going by faster than I'd like.
- Best under-the-radar player could be Minnesota's Daniel Oturu, who has competition for best big man in the Big Ten but is nonetheless right there at the top. Oturu's averaging 25.0 points and 12.8 rebounds his past four games. He's also developed a jump shot and is a terrific defender. Probably turned himself into an NBA pick this year if he wants it.
- Necessary reporting: Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician has done the research and found that Syracuse is 11-3 the past two seasons in games that feature Jim Boeheim removing his jacket.
- I'm not one for much recruiting news in the Court Report, but I noticed on Monday that 2020 top-50 prospect Cliff Omoruyi released his final five schools — Arizona state, Auburn, Connecticut, Kentucky and Rutgers. I am willing to wager that those five schools have never been the final five schools for any prospect in the history of college basketball.
- First-year UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger is getting his money's worth: his team has played six total overtimes, with more OT games than any other program in 2019-20.
- One team to watch in regard to whether it spirals or not is Washington. The 11-6 Huskies, losers of four of their past five, lost Quade Green to academic ineligibility last week and do not have a proven replacement at point guard. Critical home game vs. Oregon is this weekend.
- Yo: When you remove Nebraska and Northwestern, the 12 other Big Ten teams are a combined 108-10 at home this season, a .915 win percentage. What's more, Big Ten teams have only five home losses in intra-league competition so far. League is so thick.
- RUTGERS WATCH is officially on: Scarlet Knights are 12-4, tracking to make their first NCAA Tournament in almost 30 years and get four of their next five games at home. Then they get to play Michigan at Madison Square Garden.
- Congrats to Illinois on two fronts. First, the 12-5 Fighting Illini have scraped into this week's AP Top 25, coming in at No. 24. It's the first time the school's been ranked since 2014. And the reason Brad Underwood's team has a number next to it this week is because Illinois finally got over the hump against Wisconsin. The Illini's 71-70 home win against Bucky last week ended a 15-game losing streak vs. Wisconsin. That's not even the longest streak in this series, though; Illinois won 16 in a row over UW in the 1980s.