Forty-five minutes before practice starts, Kevin Butler is shooting around by himself at the second-floor court where UT Arlington practices.
Butler comes straight from study hall to get an early jump for an ordinary Tuesday practice before anyone else arrives.
There's nothing special about this day, except that UTA's practices are an entirely different animal than the ones Butler was accustomed to after spending his first two years at TCU.
"Practices are more intense every day here," he said. "It's more skill work over there. Here it's more about getting after it and working hard."
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Playing hard from start to finish is something UTA lost sight of last season after falling from the top of the Southland Conference standings to ninth in less than a month. That's what Butler, who watched it all happen while sitting on the bench, plans on fixing.
Butler transferred from TCU after a sophomore campaign that saw him finish second on the team in rebounds. The writing, however, was on the wall when his playing time looked to be slipping away, he said.
As a standout at Duncanville High School, Butler was recruited by UTA coach Scott Cross, so his familiarity with Cross made the decision to transfer easier.
Now, he joins the most experienced team in the SLC. He was greeted with open arms by LaMarcus Reed, the Mavericks' top scorer a year ago. Reed said inserting the 6-foot-5 Butler into the starting lineup will take some of the load off.
"He's a nightmare. I hate playing against him," he said. "Most big guys don't have good feet, but he does. It's hard to get around him."
Reed added that Butler completes the Mavericks' offense with a tenacious ability to get offensive rebounds. Last season, UTA's best offensive rebounder, Brandon Edwards, averaged just 2.1 per game.
"If the ball is loose and he's close, he's getting it," Reed said.
Cross said there's no question that Butler is the best defensive player UTA has this season. For a team with SLC title expectations, that's lofty praise for someone who's yet to play a single UTA minute.
"I'd say on a majority of nights, he'll be guarding the best guy on the opposing team," Cross said. "He's just got to find where his mismatch is in the game and exploit it. He'll always have a mismatch because he's so versatile."
Butler is soft-spoken off the court, but on the court his teammates and coaches have described him as an "animal," an animal that couldn't bear to watch his new team collapse down the stretch last season.
He has one goal, and he's committing every game and every practice to reaching it.
"I want to get that conference ring. We all want that ring," he said. "We want to put UTA on the map and get to the Big Dance."