Yame Butler is a 22-year-old guard who is going into his second season as a Drexel University basketball player. He recently spoke with The Triangle about his college experience, the past and upcoming season, his ambitions, and his long recovery process after breaking his foot last season.
RB: Last year, you had an overall record of 17-15 and made it to the 2nd round of the CAA playoffs. How would you analyze the last season, and what was missing to make it one step further?
YB: I think we had a really talented team last year, we just were plagued with a lot of injuries. Both of our point guards, Jamie Bergens and Justin Moore, were out before the playoffs started. We tried to bring Justin back for the playoffs, but he was still hurt while he was playing. Our big man Amari Williams had knee problems as well as our other big guys who were facing little injuries here and there. We just had to deal with a lot of things that we didn’t have a lot of control over.
RB: After finishing most of the pre-season, what would you say are realistic goals and expectations for the upcoming season?
YB: I’m pretty sure that we are going to win the championship this year. Our team has such good chemistry. We have people who have been here for years now. Mostly everyone on the team understands everybody else’s game. So when we get to game time everybody knows exactly what to do in their positions. This year will be a lot better.
RB: Throughout last season you became more and more important for the team. Strong performances rewarded you with playing time. What would you say is the biggest strength you are bringing to the team?
YB: My team looks to me a lot of times for energy when they bring me off the bench. My coach has a lot of faith in me and tells me: “Go out there, don’t second guess yourself. You know what you can do, so go out there and do it!” And once he gave me the opportunity last year I just showed him that they can trust me. This year I will play a lot more, I will be more consistent with the things I produce on the court.
RB: Do you think you can take the next step this year to become a starting player?
YB: Yeah, I probably could. I know that our team has so many different players. Our starting position isn’t even going to be consistent throughout the whole season. It might depend on matchups from the different teams we play. We have a lot of talented guys. I’m pretty sure that I will start in some games, but I’ll try not to get too stuck up on that.
RB: Last season could not have ended worse for you. In the CAA playoffs against UNCW (68:73), you broke your foot early in the game. How frustrating was it for you to leave the court under those circumstances in such an important game?
YB: It was world-breaking for me at the time. I just didn’t understand why. I was already injured before the game. I actually can’t remember a specific moment, but apparently, I had a small fracture in my foot, but the bone wasn’t all the way broken. I was just playing on that for a few games and trying to take care of it with icing and treatment. I even talked to one of our coaches, Coach Duffy, that I’m gonna just play on it, and then after the season, I will take care of it. As soon as I said that, six minutes into the game I felt it break. I just didn’t know how to handle it. I felt right away that I couldn’t play on this. It was just too much. One of my teammates, Jamie Bergens, who was already out from his knee injury, supported me and told me that everything would be alright. He was going through everything I went through, which made me feel a lot better at that time.
RB: Was there any positive you gained from this long time without being able to play basketball?
YB: Yeah definitely! The injury made me appreciate basketball more because I went through my own mental challenges before the injury. I didn’t love the game as much. I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs, even though I feel like every athlete goes through that. I didn’t really understand how much I loved this sport until I couldn’t play it at all. Sitting outside and watching practices while everyone else was playing, really made me appreciate basketball a lot.
RB: You are going into your 2nd season as a Dragon. You played for Fordham, and State Fair Community College before coming to Drexel. How would you describe your college career so far?
YB: I feel like I finally come out of my shell. Last year I finally got my opportunity. I went to a lot of places without that much opportunity. Once I got my opportunity here, I took the most out of it and I made a good opening for myself. The circumstances I’ve experienced at the colleges I went to before were just a lot harder for me to deal with. Especially because I was younger at that time, I was the new guy, everyone else was there. Now that I got here, I feel like these experiences in the past helped me out now.
RB: What would you say is the biggest difference between the schools you have played for in the past and Drexel?
YB: So State Fair was a junior college in a really small town. Nobody really knew about them. There was nothing there but the basketball team. It took a lot for me to be locked in on that because there was nothing out there. I got bored quickly. So this is nice here, living in a city, around a lot more things. So I’m happy here. Fordham is located in the Bronx, New York. The biggest difference between Fordham and Drexel was that Fordham is located in a worse part of the city. Basketball wise my team here has just been a lot more together. In my other teams there was a lot of fighting within the team. It was a toxic culture at both of the last schools I went to. This has been the best experience I have had so far. It feels like a close family at Drexel.
RB: What are your individual goals in basketball? Can you imagine a professional career in the US or even Europe?
YB: Yeah for sure. I want to go professional, that is my goal. I honestly don’t have a preference whether it would be here or overseas. I would love to have the experience of going out of the country and playing professionally somewhere else, but of course, the NBA would be the best option in terms of everything, also making the most money.
RB: Is there a professional player who you look up to and from whom you can learn a lot?
YB: Lebron is definitely my favorite player, he is the GOAT to me, and he is the best player ever to me. But I feel like the player I try to learn the most from is actually Kyrie Irving. The way he finishes around the rim has inspired me my whole life. Some of my finishes that I do in game, or practice come all from me watching Kyrie videos and practicing hours where I’m trying nothing but different layups.
RB: Recently Drexel announced that they would return as a member of the Big 5 tournament (a historic Philadelphia basketball tournament including Villanova, Saint Joseph’s, UPenn, Temple and La Salle) for the first time after 68 years. How honored do you feel to be able to compete in this historic tournament?
YB: We feel honored, but we also take it kind of like having a chip on our shoulder, because of all the years we weren’t included in it. We all feel like as a team it is about time that we were included in it. When we are going to that tournament we are looking to upset a lot of teams that people probably don’t think we can beat, but I’m pretty sure that we are going to. We are going to show them something nice.