ALTOONA — When Brian Butch lies down to sleep at night, he’s thinking about basketball.
The former University of Wisconsin standout has made a career with the game traveling around the world and imparted some of his knowledge on Friday afternoon on the final day of the Brian Butch Basketball Camp hosted at Altoona High School.
Butch concluded Friday’s final session by explaining to his group of youngsters the three questions he asks himself each night when he goes to sleep — What did I do today to be the best basketball player I can be? What did I do today to be the best person I can be? What did I do today to be the best husband I can be?
Basketball is always on Butch’s mind and has been since he burst onto the scene as a star at Appleton West. The 6-foot-11 Butch went on to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game before having a successful career at Wisconsin that included first team All-Big Ten honors during his senior season in 2008. Current Badger head coach Greg Gard was an assistant to Bo Ryan during Butch’s tenure and Butch said he has not been surprised at the success Gard had leading the Badgers after taking over for Ryan part way into the regular season last season.
“Coach Gard was preparing for this for a very long time,” Butch said. “What I give coach Gard credit for is it’s very tough to follow a Hall of Fame coach, but what coach Gard has done is put his stamp on the program. He’s put his name, he’s put his personality. That’s really tough to do, especially following a Hall of Fame coach and especially in the middle of a season.”
Butch has kept close ties to the Badger program, even as basketball has taken him around the globe. Following a few stints in the NBA cut short due to injury, Butch has found success playing abroad including most recently in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and last season in Tokyo, Japan. Butch followed the Wisconsin’s Final Four trips in 2014 and 2015 while playing overseas, including waking up at 3 a.m. while in Dubai to watch the team play for a national championship in 2015.
He said it was easier to watch the team while playing in Tokyo as he was able to catch most of the team’s night games in the morning with Japan’s time being 14 hours ahead. Since Butch started playing overseas he said communication back to family in the United States has gotten much easier and he talks with his parents daily.
Last season Butch won a league championship playing for the Toshiba Brave Thunders of the Japan National Basketball League. The 31-year old said he believes he has a few more years left playing internationally.
“I love the game of basketball and any way I can be around it, (I want to) be a part of it and play it,” Butch said. “At some point I’ll have to stop because my body says I have to stop. Father Time always wins.”
When Butch isn’t playing professionally, he can often be found crisscrossing the state of Wisconsin putting on his Brian Butch Basketball Camps. Locally, he has put on camps in Altoona, Augusta and Elk Mound in recent years and relies on word of mouth to spread the word instead of advertising. He says the opportunity to give back is what helps drive him.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Butch said. “The game of basketball has not only taken me around the world, it’s given me many opportunities and it all started for me in Appleton, Wisconsin and the state of Wisconsin. Then going to the University of Wisconsin and having the support of so many of the fans it’s only right for me to give back to the game and give back to the fans of Wisconsin and the state of Wisconsin.”
The relationships he’s forged through basketball remain with him, his wife and his family. It’s what continues to draw him back to Wisconsin and drives his will to spread his knowledge of the game he loves.
“I love the people of Wisconsin, I love the Midwest,” Butch said. “They’re special people. I’ve been all over the world, I’ve learned culturally what people are all about. I’ve seen so many different things and I keep being pulled back here because of the support, because of the way people act and I absolutely love it. It’s home. Not just Appleton, but the state of Wisconsin. It’s home.”
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