Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall Have Emerged For ButlerPosted by Walker Carey on November 20th, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed his report after Tuesday’s game in Indianapolis between Butler and Vanderbilt.
The 2013-14 season is supposed to be a transition year for Butler as it entered its first season in the new Big East. For starters, the team lost key offensive weapons Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith to graduation after last season. With the team’s personnel already in a bit of a rebuilding phase, things took a stunning turn in early July when Brad Stevens left Butler to take the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics. With assistant Brandon Miller replacing Stevens, things got even dicier for the Bulldogs in August when top returnee Roosevelt Jones was lost for the season after suffering a wrist injury during the team’s summer trip to Australia. Entering the season then, a Butler program that had developed a reputation for stability over the last several years was suddenly searching for an identity. Through the first three games of that search, Butler has found a semblance of what it is looking for in the play of sophomore guard Kellen Dunham and senior forward Khyle Marshall.
As a freshman last season, Dunham experienced a lot of the ups and downs that goes along with being a freshman. He put up a respectable 9.5 points per contest – which was good for fifth-best on the team – but he only shot 37.5 percent from the field. Stepping into the void left by the departed Clarke, Dunham has upped his level of play thus far in his sophomore season. After putting up a solid 13 points in a season-opening 89-58 blowout victory over Lamar, the sharpshooter had a career-best performance in this past Saturday’s narrow 70-67 triumph over Princeton. In Tuesday evening’s overtime defeat of Vanderbilt, Dunham set the tone early for Butler by scoring 10 of his 16 points in the first half. As Vanderbilt fought back to force overtime, the sophomore showed great resolve in effectively facilitating the Butler offense and providing excellent defense against a Commodore attack that valiantly battled back from a 14-point second half deficit.
Marshall is one of two seniors on this year’s Butler squad and he is the only player who saw time during the 2010-11 team’s improbable run to the NCAA title game. After being a key reserve for much of his first two seasons in Indianapolis, Marshall emerged last season as a full-time starter who led the team in shooting percentage with a 56.6 percent mark. With the departure of Smith and the injury to Jones, Marshall showed that he could bring his game up another notch in the opener against Lamar by totaling 19 points and 13 rebounds in just 22 minutes. While the senior only tallied four points and four rebounds in the close win against Princeton, he made enough hustle plays in the game that Brandon Miller devoted a portion of Sunday’s film session to show his team what Marshall added to the winning effort. In Tuesday’s thrilling home win over Vanderbilt, Marshall turned in a career-best performance, finishing with 26 points on an 11-of-15 effort from the field. His performance was critical to Butler earning the victory, as he tallied 16 of the team’s last 22 points.
Butler is nowhere near a finished product and it is logical to assume that the mostly young Bulldogs will go through some peaks and valleys as the season progresses. However, if the team can continue to get strong performances from Dunham and Marshall, that supposed transition year in Indianapolis may go smoother than originally thought.