Natalie Butler, the Big East freshman of the year at Georgetown, will transfer to UConn and one of the coaches she competed against in the Big East said the Huskies are getting a special player.
"Natalie was the most impressive freshman I have coached against in my 14 years as a Division 1 head coach," said Seton Hall's Tony Bozzella. "And it's not just because of her numbers and production. Her poise, demeanor and maturity level far outdistanced those of an average 18-year-old. She took constant pounding, double-teaming and pressure all year and always fought through it. And she continued to progress all year.
"And now, with a year to continue her development under the best coaches in our game, quite frankly I would not be surprised to see her as an All-American one day."
Butler, a 6-foot-5 post player, visited Storrs in early May after receiving her release from Georgetown, where she averaged 13.9 points and 13.3 rebounds. She was the top rebounding freshman in Division I women's basketball and ranked fifth among Division I players in rebounds a game.
Per NCAA transfer rules, she must sit out the 2014-15 season before resuming her career as a sophomore the following season. NCAA rules also prevent the UConn coaching staff from commenting on Butler.
"She chases excellence on and off the court," Butler's high school coach, John Giannelli, told the Courant last week. "She is smart and she truly loves basketball. She plays and trains year-round. Before practice she'd already be soaked with sweat. I'd kid her, 'Natalie, why are you wet, it's not raining out?' It's because she had already run the steps in our football stadium before a three-hour practice. She worked with medicine balls. She's not afraid to bump or push and when she plays rough she plays better."
Giannelli said a big influence in her life is her father, Vernon, a former teammate at Navy of David Robinson. They both played on the Midshipmen's Elite Eight team in the 1980s.
"I'd come into the gym early at times and she would be there with her dad working out. And I don't mean just with a ball; I mean conditioning, low post moves, her jump shot. Same thing after practice. Her dad works her hard. She was a perfect example to the other players; you want to play Division I, you need to work hard.
"She is very good around the basket and she's worked hard on her 15-foot jumper. For a big girl, she handles the ball well and she runs the floor. She gets rebounds, fires off an outlet and she's running up the court. She also looks for the missed layup on the fastbreak [on offense]. She runs baseline to baseline."
In theory, she provides UConn a potential replacement for Stefanie Dolson, the All-American who is now with the WNBA's Washington Mystics.
She had 24 double-doubles and was the only Georgetown player to start all 32 games. But the Hoyas have endured a difficult time since former coach Terri Williams-Flournoy left for Auburn before the 2012-13 season.
Last year the Hoyas finished 11-21 after coach Keith Brown was suspended indefinitely following accusations of unprofessional behavior in October. He resigned eight days later and was replaced by Jim Lewis, a former WNBA coach. Former Georgetown assistant coach Natasha Adair was named Hoyas' coach last month
Butler averaged 26.2 points, 17.8 rebounds and 10.1 blocked shots as a senior at Lake Braddock High, graduating as the team's career leader in rebounds and blocked shots.
She will join the nine-time national champions with incoming recruits De'Janae Boykin and Napheesa Collier, two of the top forwards in the high school class of 2015, who have already offered oral commitments to the Huskies.
Butler's signing also strengthens the program's depth for 2015-16 after the departures of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Brianna Banks. Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, who will be seniors, would be joined by juniors Morgan Tuck and Saniya Chong, sophomores Kia Nurse, Courtney Ekmark, Butler, Sadie Edwards and Gabby Williams and Boykin and Collier.
UConn does not often take on transfers. Over the past 10 seasons only Brittany Hunter (Duke) and center Jessica McCormick of New Zealand (Washington) were accepted by the program. Hunter went on to have a successful career while McCormack, who enrolled before the 2008-09 season, never played because of injuries.Copyright © 2015, CT Now