As the Beatles sang, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away …”
But yesterday is no more.
It was wonderful, really, this run to the Final Four, first time in 51 years. So much accomplished, so many memories built around a coach, a player and a basketball team that won over an entire state.
Then along came a Saturday night in the far off world of Indiana and yesterday became today, Duke became West Virginia’s worst nightmare and it ended with little more than a whimper.
And so it is time to move on, for if yesterday was trouble free, then we must look to tomorrow, West Virginia University’s basketball team’s tomorrow and the tomorrow for Da’Sean Butler, that suddenly is terribly cloudy.
The news that came out of West Virginia in three-paragraph release from Brian Messerly of the sports information department was soul sapping:
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 4, 2010) — Further tests revealed that West Virginia University senior Da’Sean Butler suffered an ACL tear in his left knee after undergoing an MRI at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis on Sunday.
The injury occurred with 8:59 left in the second half of Saturday night’s NCAA national semifinal game against Duke. The MRI also revealed a MCL sprain and two bone bruises.
A native of Newark, N.J., Butler finished his career as the third-leading scorer in WVU history with 2,095 points. He played in a school-record 146 career games.
Forget about the loss to Duke for a moment and the national championship opportunity that got away.
The Butler injury is personal.
The man was a heroic figure in a state that cries out for one. He was to basketball what Patrick White was to football, a man who lifted WVU into the national picture, a friendly, warm player who stayed four years.
And then, in his final game, with projections that he would go in the NBA draft as high as the 21st pick, he tore his ACL.
The draft is scheduled for June 24. Butler probably will not be operated on until after tax day as they wait for the swelling to go down and until they go in there they really can’t know how severe the injury is.
If the doctors don’t know, rest assured the NBA doesn’t know and it isn’t about to go throwing first-round money, which could be about $1.5 million, at a player whose health is suspect.
You talk about your rotten luck, you talk about bad things happening to good people.
Will Butler recover and become the player he has been? Most likely.
They do knees today as if it were nothing more than an appendectomy.
Athletes usually have more zippers than championship rings. And it really isn’t anything new. As far back as Mickey Mantle, who had terrible knee problems throughout a career that led him to the Hall of Fame, knee injuries have been overcome.
And Butler, as hard as he works, as much as it means to him, almost surely will overcome this.
But he may have to do it as a free agent without a guaranteed contract, which is just not fair.
When the doctors open Butler’s knee and put the ACL back together, their hands will be guided by the prayers of an entire state, of 1.9 million or so hard-working people who probably would give a $1 of their own hard-earned money to Butler to make up for what he might lose in a bonus.
They love him that much.
But this injury has an unintended consequence on the Mountaineers future, for there is a message there that younger players are interpreting.
If this could happen to Butler in his final game, in the last nine minutes of his career, it could happen to them.
Case in point, Devin Ebanks of the Mountaineers.
There has been much talk that he might declare for the NBA draft this year.
He isn’t ready. He is a talented player who needs to polish areas of his game and would best do that as the star on next year’s team under Bob Huggins, who knows as well as anyone how to prepare a player for the NBA.
Rest assured that today he’s weighing that against the risk he’s taking; a risk that he, like Butler, could be injured, for all athlete’s futures really are in the hands of fate.
And WVU’s success next year may well rest on Ebanks’ decision. If he goes, it could mean the Mountaineers have to really patch things up without Butler, Wellington Smith and Ebanks.
If he stays, however, it may be as the Carpenters sang:
“It’s yesterday once more.”
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.