After year off, Brooks Butt making impact for Pirates with size and shooting
In the final game of Crookston's 2019 football season, Brooks Butt took a hard hit to the head. When basketball season rolled around, he was still feeling the effects.
So Butt decided it might be best to take the season off. While he's played basketball since his early childhood, he hopes to play football collegiately. He decided to use the winter to get stronger for his junior football season, working out three times a day.
This year, Butt came through football healthy, and rejoined the basketball team when practices began. Pirate coach Greg Garmen wasn't sure where Butt would fit in after the lengthy absence, but he didn't ask too many questions.
Crookston's top two big men last season, Caden Osborn and Brooks' brother Brady Butt, both graduated, and coming into 2021, the Pirates desperately needed size in the middle. As a result, the 6-foot, 270-pound Butt has stepped in as the Pirates' starting center, almost by default.
"We don't have a lot of bodies," Garmen said. "Any big bodies we have, I'd like to put to use."
Butt is more than just a big body, though.
In Crookston's 68-39 win over Climax-Fisher on Jan. 21, Butt scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds, including two big 3-pointers that helped spark a 25-0 run for the Pirates midway through the game. And in a 75-53 loss to Park Rapids on Feb. 2, Butt led the team in scoring with 16 points.
Through six games, Butt is averaging 5.2 points per game. While he isn't one to create his own offense from outside, he's been able to knock down catch-and-shoot looks, as well as score tough buckets inside and get to the line.
"He's been a pleasant surprise," Garmen said. "He's able to score. If he can keep doing that, he's only going to help us. ... We expect him to help anchor down the middle, get boards and defend other big kids."
Butt's also gotten help from his father, Scott. Garmen will often hear Scott, Crookston's head football coach, yelling from the bleachers, imploring his son to get more arc on his shot. It seems Butt's taken it to heart.
"He's got a good-looking shot," Garmen said. "... I always felt he had good form all the way up. Going back to even third grade, he had good form."
But neither Garmen nor Butt knew just how effective he'd be shooting the ball. Butt assumed that shooting would be one of the toughest parts of returning to the court, while his defense would come back easier. So far, he says, it's been the other way around.
"I came back and I started hitting threes, and I was like, 'dang, it didn't really go away,' " Butt said.
Even though his shooting adds a crucial dimension to his game, Butt's strength — quite literally — is down low, as one would expect. Garmen thinks he's more athletic and mobile this year, having grown more into his body, and that he knows how to use his physicality inside.
The Pirates don't have the height advantage in most matchups — Park Rapids center Nick Michaelson, for example, stands 6-foot-6. Butt, though, can hold his own against players much taller, using his strength to box out and get opponents out of rhythm.
"He's stronger than a lot of the kids that are taller," Garmen said.
Butt's success on the court early this season hasn't changed his plans. An All-District lineman this season, he knows that the gridiron is his future. Garmen recognizes that too. In the meantime, basketball is a way for Butt to improve his footwork, stay active and just "have fun with the guys."
But that doesn't mean he isn't seizing the moment every time he steps onto the court.
"I wanted to come out there and help the team any way I could," Butt said. "Any role they gave me, just come out and execute it the way that I know I could and play 100 percent."
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