In his relatively short time at Ohio State, head coach Thad Matta has seen many talented Buckeyes come though his powerhouse program. From Tony Stockman, Je’Kel Foster and Terence Dials to Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr., there has been much change over the past few years, with extraordinary talent and Big Ten championship teams.
The one thing that has remained the same, however, is senior point guard Jamar Butler and his central role in Buckeye basketball’s success.
It has been, in many ways, a Cinderella story of sorts for Butler from the beginning. The Lima, Ohio native did not commit to Ohio State from the moment he was offered a scholarship, despite knowing he was always meant to be a Buckeye. After verbally committing to Cincinnati, Butler had a change of heart and sent his commitments north on Interstate I-71 to Ohio State.
However, when the freshman point guard stepped onto the Value City Arena court in 2004, it was under the direction of first-year coach Thad Matta. Missing only one game in his four-year career as a Buckeye, Butler has been a consistent starter for the past three, watching some teammates come and go and the look of the team he has led change drastically from year to year.
Butler has never shied away in the face of these changes. In fact, these challenges have molded the legacy Butler will leave behind when he steps off the court this March; a legacy of outstanding leadership, all-time records and an incredible love for his team and university.
From Oden to Kosta Koufus, Conley to Jon Diebler, anyone can see Butler has a way of getting his teammates to rally around him. His leadership may be another natural talent as Butler chalks it up to just being himself.
“I think it is just the way I am,” Butler said. “I knew coming in we had young kids and young teams that would be looking for guidance. I just stepped up one at a time and told them what our goals were for each season and what we were looking for out of each of them.”
Natural or not, Butler’s leadership has been a valuable asset any coach would be lucky to have. Matta is not only grateful for everything Butler has done for this program, but has also enjoyed observing him evolve into the player he is today.
“Jamar is a player who has been with us since day one,” Matta said. “It has been great watching him progress. He had great tutelage in year one with Je’Kel Foster and even in year two with Terence Dials, so last year he did a great job getting our young kids when they stepped onto campus. He teaches them who we are and what we are about here.”
While his leadership has been a profound factor for the Buckeyes’ success, so have his stats. Butler will go down in Ohio State basketball history with the most three-point makes and attempts in program history to go along with the most assists by a Buckeye. Butler became the 49th player in OSU history to reach 1,000 points and, along with classmates Matt Terwilliger and Othello Hunter, recorded the most wins of any player in Ohio State history.
That long and distinguished list of statistics, which easily carves out Butler’s place in the record books, is the reason many fans in Value City Arena sport No. 14 jerseys on any given game-day. When asked which part of his legacy he was most proud of, it did not have anything to do with individual records. Butler is most proud of the teams he has been at the helm of and the things they have accomplished together.
“The one record that stands out in my mind is being a part of the class that is the all-time leader in winning games,” Butler said “That is the main one that stands out. I am able to say my teammates and I won more games than anyone at Ohio State. Also I hope people remember the things we did off the court, like the walk for diabetes and autograph signings. I hope that they remember I was an all around good person.”
A Cinderella story it may be, but it has ended up working out in favor of Butler and Ohio State basketball. It is clear for anyone to see Butler was indeed always meant to be a Buckeye. Perhaps it has been the trials he has faced or the position and personnel changes over the years that have shaped him into the player he is today.
Whatever it may be, Butler has made his mark and has left a remarkable legacy and big shoes to fill.