Giavonni Mack came from Providence High, Matthew Fisher-Davis from Charlotte Christian, and Orlando Robinson from Queens Grant.They transferred to Butler to join RaeQuan Scott, forming one of the deepest backcourts in south Charlotte. The Bulldogs were 6-4 heading into winter break, and that’s about where head coach Donald Kirby expected them to be. He expects them to be much better come February. “I knew they had the talent to be special and have a special kind of year,” said Kirby, who is in his third year as head coach at Butler. “But I knew we would be behind the eight ball because everybody else has been together all summer long, all preseason long, and this group relatively came together about three weeks before the season started. ... “We knew it was going to take a lot of tremendous work and effort to catch up with everybody else, but it’s been a fun process to go through.” Fisher-Davis, a 6-foot-5 senior, played on varsity as a freshman at Butler, but transferred to Charlotte Christian for his sophomore and junior seasons. The Vanderbilt commit averaged 17.2 points for the Knights last year, good for second on the team. He transferred back to Butler this fall. “I love it,” Fisher-Davis, 17, said about being back at Butler. “I’ve always kind of wanted to be back ever since I left. With the talent we have now, I’m in a different role than I was as a freshman. It’s just been fun.” With so much talent around him, Fisher-Davis can focus on being a shooter and has players around him who can pick him up if he’s having a bad game. He came into the winter break averaging a team-high 24.8 points per game and 12 rebounds. Mack, a 6-foot-1 senior, transferred to Butler after three years of playing on varsity at Providence High. Mack averaged 24 points for the Panthers and was named all-conference last season.Mack said having so much talent around him has allowed him to focus more on distributing the ball. He’s still averaging 21 points per game this season, but also has eight assists per game.Robinson, a 6-foot sophomore, played at Queens Grant last year. He said he’s excited to be on a strong team that plays tough competition every night.Robinson is considered the team’s main point guard, averaging 10 points and three assists per game.Scott, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, started on varsity as a freshman at Butler and was one of the team’s leading scorers, averaging nearly 16 points per game.Kirby said the new lineup has probably most helped Scott, who doesn’t have to be the main scorer for Butler this year. He was averaging 10 points, two steals and two assists this season heading into winter break.“I really feel like he has enjoyed the fact that everything didn’t fall on his shoulders this year,” Kirby said. “He’s had a chance to really work on some parts of his game that he really wanted to develop with those guys here. ...“I think it’s been a benefit for him to be able to watch how those guys (Mack and Fisher-Davis) prepare and having somebody there that can talk to him about things that he can expect to go through over the next couple of years.” The seniors have taken a leadership role with the sophomore guards this season. Being Division I recruits, they know what it takes to play at a high level and have a chance to play in college. “I like that they’re competitive,” Robinson, 15, said. “And going against them every day is getting me better and stronger.” The four guards don’t have defined roles on the team. In general, Kirby said Scott and Fisher-Davis are the better shooters and Robinson and Mack are the better ball handlers, but they all are versatile. All four can play both guard positions and most can also play at small forward. Kirby said he changes the starting lineup from game-to-game depending on who the team is playing. Sometimes only two of the guards start and sometimes all four do. “They all have great attitudes,” Kirby said. “They all know they’re going to play starter minutes, so they don’t worry about who starts, whose coming off the bench, whatever. ... There’s really no secret formula or math. We just look at who we’re playing and based on that team’s strengths we’re going to put the combination together.” The players also tend to play unselfishly. If one player is having a lot of success scoring, the others will try to get him the ball.“Any night anybody can get hot,” Mack, 18, said. “If we’re having a good night, all four of us, if we’re all hitting shots, it makes it tougher on the opposing team. But we do a good job of feeding the person that has the hot hand that night. ... We’ve got a very unselfish group.” Success didn’t come immediately to the Bulldogs this season. They started 0-3, with losses to West Charlotte, Mallard Creek and Greensboro Smith. The four had to work to build chemistry early in the season. “I believe that communication was a key in coming together as a team,” Scott, 15, said. “We started out slow, but as we communicated and came together, we picked things up.” Butler has won six of its last seven games (through Dec. 23) since the 0-3 start. And as the four get better playing with one another, they could be even better later in the season. “We know we’re going to be a lot better team in February then we were when we started out in November,” Kirby said. “So we’re comfortable with taking our lessons and taking our lumps and figuring things out as we go. Every week I can honestly say we’ve been better than we were the week before, and we just want to continue that growth process.”
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013
Talented Butler backcourt hopes to get even better
Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe
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