Jason Guarente (@JasonGuarente)
Go where you’re wanted. Those words were in Mark Butler’s mind as his recruiting process unfolded. That’s how he ultimately chose Lafayette. No coach wanted him more.
Mike Jordan has pursued Butler since he was a freshman at Penn Charter. Whether Jordan was an assistant at Colgate or Drexel, the interest remained. Once he became Lafayette’s head coach in March, an offer quickly followed.
All of that attention was the difference.
“They just made me feel wanted,” Butler said. “So I wanted them as well.”
The 6-0 rising senior picked Lafayette over Patriot League rival Lehigh and Florida Gulf Coast, now coached by former Penn State coach Pat Chambers. The deciding factor was Jordan’s diligence through the years.
“He always kept eyes on Mark,” said Penn Charter coach John Owens. “He just saw something in him. It’s good when you go somewhere with someone who can identify with you as a player and as a person. When you feel like they believe in you from the beginning. I think that was the biggest part.”
Butler, who plays for Philly Pride, helped Penn Charter win its first Inter-Ac championship in 18 years this spring. He was named league MVP and Non-PIAA All-State third team.
Penn Charter's Mark Butler will play for Mike Jordan at Lafayette. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Success didn’t come instantly with the Quakers. Butler has been a starter for four seasons but was courted by other schools after his freshman year. Rather than leave Penn Charter for Archbishop Wood or Bishop McDevitt, Butler stuck it out with Owens and his staff. The wins later followed.
“I could help them lead the program in the right direction,” Butler said. “Those guys were loyal to me. They gave me a shot in the eighth grade to lead the team. I’m very big on loyalty. I couldn’t leave those guys.”
Owens, who played at Abington Friends, remembers first crossing paths with Butler when he was with Philly Triple Threat. The point guard’s poise was striking even back then. He was a natural floor leader.
Butler and Owens were united at Penn Charter the following year and all of those skills became even more apparent when the eighth-grader was running the show for the Quakers.
“He was getting to his spots, running his team, just playing mature,” Owens said. “I remember saying to myself, ‘I’ve never seen a kid that age play at that pace.’ Usually when you’re that age you’re playing fast. He didn’t let us speed him up. That was special. He was controlling the game. I thought that was a unique trait he has.”
Butler prides himself on being a facilitator rather than a scorer. Although he averaged 13 points for Penn Charter, he didn’t look to shoot first. He put team needs ahead of his own. He’s a throwback in some ways.
“I’m a traditional point guard,” Butler said. “You don’t see a lot of those in today’s game. You see a lot of combo guards. I like to get in the paint, make the right read, do whatever it takes for my team to win. I’ve been like that since a really young age.”
Penn Charter's Mark Butler, right, attempts to split the defense last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
It wasn’t easy taking over a varsity team as an eighth-grader. Butler was undersized, at about 5-7, and lagged behind the high school players in his development. That didn’t stop him from contributing.
Owens has watched Butler grow from a boy into a Division I prospect. The progress wasn’t surprising. Butler had the skill and intangibles all along.
“Mark is extremely smart,” Owens said. “He’s got little things that people overlook. He’s got great footwork, he’s a great defender. He can create his own shot and can create shots for others. I think sometimes you can get mesmerized by size but you can have a guy who’s got size but can’t play the game. I like having guys around that understand the game and can execute. He’s one of those guys.”
Butler hopes to make an immediate impact in college. Once Lafayette came into the picture and there was a coach who Butler could trust, the choice was easy.
“It has always been my dream to play Division I basketball,” he said. “I think I’ll have an opportunity to play Day 1. It’s the Patriot League. It’s competitive. I think the transition won’t be easy. I think when I get adjusted to it, it’ll be really good.”
Butler picked Lafayette for the most basic reason of all. That's the school that wanted him the most.