On the evening of April 1, 2023 … “The Shot” happened.
A buzzer-beater heard around the world sent the San Diego State Aztecs to the National Championship Game against the then four-time champion UConn Huskies.
It was that shot from Lamont Butler on a national stage that catapulted him into a frenzy of fame.
Butler made history by knocking down the only buzzer-beater by a trailing team in Final Four history. That shot will be remembered forever, not only by SDSU but also for the entire college basketball world. It’s a great achievement that may last a very long time.
IT’S A SAN DIEGO STATE MIRACLE 😱
Lamont Butler drains the CLUTCH bucket for the Aztecs to move on to the NCAA Finals!pic.twitter.com/AGMdt2dBFj
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) April 2, 2023
Fame inserted high expectations on the senior: a blessing and curse, his newfound status carried with it a lot of noise. Butler, not Jaedon LeDee, was the Aztecs’ representative on the preseason All-Mountain West team. Most expected a huge jump in offensive production.
Through 10 games, however, that just hasn’t been the case.
Butler is shooting a career-low 34.9% from the floor this season. He has seen his three-point percentage drop to 28.6%, and his free-throw percentage is very low at just 37.5%. Butler shot 73.1% from the charity stripe last season so you know he can improve with more attempts from the line.
Butler has seen his game struggle, but despite that, he has continued to have clutch moments. Just a few weeks ago against UC San Diego, it was Butler’s two late three’s that allowed for the Aztecs to storm back with a victory. We all know that Butler likes to elevate his game when it’s crunch time.
“Butler is a confident player,” head coach Brian Dutcher said after the win over UCSD. “You can miss shots during the game but really good players make shots when the game is on the line and you don’t get discouraged when the ball doesn’t go in. Lamont missed layups and he missed some opportunities but to his credit, much like he did last year for us, he made important shots and he made more important shots for us down the stretch tonight.”
There are bright lights at the end of the tunnel for No. 5. There is another part of his game that is improving, and that is his court vision and passing. Butler is averaging 3.7 assists per game, which is currently a career-high. He has finished with five-plus assists in three games this year, with his season-high at seven.
Jaedon LeDee is taking the world by storm with his play on the offensive end, averaging 22.8 points per game, good for sixth in the nation. Reese Waters is averaging 14.1 points per game, and Micah Parrish is third on the team, averaging 11.3 points. Believe it or not, Elijah Saunders is just ahead of Butler on the team scoring list as he averages 8.2 points to Butler’s 7.5 on the season.
As a matter of fact, Butler has never averaged double digits in scoring for his college career. His 8.8 ppg last season was his career-high. Being the focal point of the offense has never been a part of Butler’s game during his time at SDSU.
There is plenty to love offensively for the California native, like his mid-range game or his ability to get his teammates involved. Butler contributes in many ways, and the Aztecs will always be better off with him on the court, giving opposing guards nightmares on the defensive end. His ability to defend at a high level provides Butler with the value that everybody loves. The guard has many aspects of his game that are reasons for him being on the court. He can really do it all.
Now in his fourth season at SDSU, the guard is averaging 1.3 steals per game for his career. So far this season, he is averaging 1.1 per game. Furthermore, he is close to his career-high (4) in blocks already this year with three. Against Washington, Butler finished with five steals. In a game with few defensive stops, each of those was magnified in SDSU’s 100-97 overtime victory.
We are just ten games into the season. There are still 2/3rd’s of the season remaining, and there is plenty of time for Butler to find his groove offensively. The Aztecs can surely benefit from it.
Coach Dutcher knows this team has a short uphill climb to get back to where they want to be. There are some great games ahead that will be good testers for this team.
“They buy in and work hard in practice,” Dutcher said about what he has seen from his team 10 games into the season. “We will get better. We are (8-2) and we are not good enough yet. I’m saying that we have to get better and they know that.”
Contests to close out the year against Stanford and Gonzaga would be a perfect time for the Aztecs’ leader to break out. Even if it doesn’t. Take a deep breath. Lamont Butler will be fine. You can count on him elevating his game as the Aztecs head into 2024.
Chris is a graduate of the University of San Diego. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, and contributes regularly about the Padres.