On January 12, 2019, SUU freshman wing Harrison Butler immortalized himself with a posterizing dunk over Northern Arizona.
— SUU Men’s Basketball (@SUUBasketball) January 12, 2019
“Earlier in that game I missed a layup,” Butler said. “I airballed it and it went out of bounds. I was like ‘there’s no way I’m going to airball again, so I’m gonna go up to dunk and hope I get fouled.'”
That’s exactly how it happened. Butler soared over the defender and flushed the ball through the net. The crowd roared its approval.
It wasn’t the first dunk in his life. Butler recalls that his first dunk came on the second to last day of seventh grade. He had been trying to dunk all year and decided to give it one more go before the year was over. He rose toward the basket in an empty gym and managed to dunk it home.
“I was so shocked that I dunked it that I just kind of like, stood there,” Butler laughs. “No one saw me, I just thought ‘Oh I just dunked it!'”
Seventh grade turned out to be a big year for the high flying guard. It was the year he discovered the passion that would guide him toward his career beyond basketball. Butler is studying Zoology and hopes to work with reptiles at the San Diego Zoo after he graduates. Middle school also marked the beginning of one of Butler’s most prized traditions: wearing mismatched socks.
“It just kind of started when I had to wake up early in the morning and I was too lazy to find matching socks,” Butler continues. “Now it’s like ‘that’s a Harrison thing,’ he’s got mismatched socks.”
The different colored socks became just one of many “Harrison things,” including Fortnite, the Transformers movie franchise, Lil Uzi Vert’s music and rim-rattling dunks in traffic.
Butler’s athletic ability led him to one of Southern California’s most prestigious high schools, Mater Dei. The private school has produced countless collegiate and professional athletes, with Butler being just one of many Mater Dei success stories.
SUU Head Coach Todd Simon took notice of his raw talent and recruited Butler.
“We thought he was a spectacular player,” Simon said. “People were telling us to not recruit him because he was going to be beyond our level and have different options.”
The concern was valid, why would a big talent from a big school choose to come to a small school like Southern Utah?
“It just felt like the right fit,” Butler said. “They play the way I like to play. I thought it would make me a better person and a better player. I like to play fast and run in transition and I like a lot of dunks.”
Butler has shown maturity in his time at SUU. Coaches have applauded his willingness to change the mechanics of shot and work hard in the gym to fit in more with Simon’s system.
“He’s improved in every area we’ve challenged him to,” Simon said. “He’s getting better at a rapid pace to where he could be one of the better players to come through SUU in a long time.”
While dunks put Butler on the map, he also makes valuable contributions to the team through his rebounding and defensive intensity. He is second on the team in rebounding and often guards the opponent’s best perimeter player when he enters the game.
“I never quit on anything,” Butler said. “Even if we’re down by 100, I’ll still go out there and work as hard as I can to try and come back.”
That work ethic is the foundation for Butler’s skyscraper potential both above the rim and off the court.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication