After back-to-back Mountain West Conference regular-season titles, the San Diego State Aztecs will look a little different this season. The team lost their top three leading scorers, and a few players will need to step up to replicate the success.
With Cal transfer Matt Bradley now in the fold and players like Nathan Mensah and Adam Seiko returning, the Aztecs will be among the favorites to win the conference.
One factor that will be crucial to San Diego State’s success this year will be the emergence of Lamont Butler. Entering his sophomore season, Butler will be counted on along with Bradley, Seiko, Keith Dinwiddie, and Trey Pulliam as the primary guards on the team. Butler started alongside Pulliam and Bradley in a scrimmage last week with Seiko and Dinwiddie providing help off the bench.
Butler was highly recruited coming out of Riverside Poly High School as a three-star prospect. He was ranked the No. 40 point guard in the country and the No. 251 prospect nationally. Coming into Poly as a 5’9”, 105-pound freshman, Butler was not the biggest, but he was still a four-year varsity starter.
In his illustrious high school career, Butler broke Reggie Miller’s school scoring record, led the team to a 91-36 record, and broke multiple other school records. He was consistently picked all-league, all-county, and all-CIF. Even as an undersized freshman, Yancy Dodson knew Butler would be a star.
“Lamont is an incredibly unselfish person and player. He always has one thing on his mind, and that is to lead his team to a win,” Dodson, Butler’s head coach from Poly, told EVT. “He had great skill and a great IQ coming in, and he does anything to help his team win. He is an absolute coach’s dream in every single way.”
Entering his second season for the Aztecs, Butler is now 6’2”, 200 pounds, and is expected to be one of the lead guards for San Diego State.
“Seeing him on a daily basis when he was in high school, and obviously a lot less now, he has gotten huge. I see his workout videos and can see that he puts in the work every single day,” Dodson said. “He really fell in love with the weight room, and that has made his game so much better. His leadership, ability to defend [the best player], and make plays for his teammates is incredible.”
Dodson said he knew that Butler would be playing at a collegiate level. As a sophomore, he led Poly to their first-ever CIF title game.
Butler only played 12.4 minutes per game last season, averaging 4.3 PPG, 1.5 APG, and 0.9 SPG. However, with an increased workload, Butler will be a force on both sides for the Aztecs.
Lamont’s father, Lamont Butler Sr., has watched him grow up into the star he is, both as a player and a person.
“Watching him grow on and off the court has been amazing,” Butler Sr. said. “His aggressiveness is his biggest strength, and I can’t wait to watch what he does this season. Lamont puts in hard work late at night when no one sees him, and he has gotten better every year.”
Off the court, Butler is a star as well. His father said that he is the most selfless person he knows, and Lamont has always been among the top students wherever he is.
“My son means the world to our family. It was a blessing when he hit the earth, and he is a very important piece of our family,” Butler Sr. said. “We were so excited with his commitment to San Diego State, we can watch him play very conveniently, and it really just was a blessing in disguise.”
Throughout the process of interviewing the players and coaches for the East Village Times season preview, a constant theme emerged: Butler is an incredible teammate. At practice, the rest of the team gravitated to him, treating him at one time like a younger brother, and at others like a seasoned veteran. To a man, every person EVT spoke to talked about their appreciation for how Butler encourages them, picks them up, and creates a family atmosphere on the team. Butler, for his part in his characteristic selflessness, credits his upbringing for this special talent.
“I think it was just the way my parents raised me,” Butler told EVT. “They raised me to be humble, put other people first sometimes, and I always love to see my teammates win. If they win, I win, so I am always trying to encourage them, be a leader and brother to them. Its always been like that my whole life no matter who is on my team or who is winning or losing. I just always try to be that guy who is a great teammate.”
Butler started playing basketball at the age of seven and played on a 9U travel team at that age. He has improved so much as he has gotten older and has progressed on the court, and this season will be the biggest of his career.
“I have been working on just trying to hit shots more consistently,” Butler said when asked what he has been working on in the offseason. “I feel like growing in that area will make my game jump and improve tremendously. Also, just making reads in the pick and roll, be more dangerous around the pick and roll because it’s a big part of our offense. I know at the next level, the pick and roll is key. You see point guards (in the NBA) .. they kill in the pick and roll. It’s very successful for them, so I am trying to learn from them, and just learn every day in practice. Also, just becoming a better leader. Last year, we had Matt and Jordon. They were in the program for four years. They were great leaders, and I am taking what I learned from them and adding to this year’s team.”
San Diego State is one of the favorites to win the Mountain West Conference this season. Matt Bradley will likely be the best player on the squad, but many others will need to step up. Lamont Butler will have a much more significant role than he did last season. His scoring, playmaking, and leadership will be a massive factor in the Aztecs’ success.