Someone must have been praying for me

Matt Howard, a 6-foot-8 junior forward for the Butler Bulldogs, will create his own Final Four memories this weekend.

They’ll fight to crowd out the basketball memory that defined his childhood in Connersville: Indiana’s run to the 2002 national title game.

“Following Dane Fife and all those guys,” he said, “that’s my first tournament memory.”

When Howard, one of 10 children, grew into one of the most coveted players in the state, new Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson came calling. This was the summer of 2006, just a few months after Sampson arrived. Howard knew the program would be in transition.

He still didn’t like the experience in Bloomington.

“I did a little bit, but, man, somebody either must have been praying for me or something,” Howard said Thursday after Butler practiced at Lucas Oil Stadium in preparation for its national semifinal game against Michigan State Saturday. “In my mind it didn’t feel right when it was Sampson there. I’m really glad that was the case. Once I went there and visited and got that feeling, it never really was an option afterward.”

Later, Howard reflected how “interesting” it was that things have worked out the way they did for the school he dreamed of playing for and the one he ended up playing for. In his hometown, he said, people wouldn’t think of spending a game night doing anything other than listening to Don Fischer and Todd Leary on the radio.

“That was pretty much it,” he said.

His run with the Bulldogs, though, has earned Butler a few fans, he said.

“They sent 800 people up here on buses for a game once,” he said. “That’s pretty substantial for a town of 15,000, maybe smaller.”

17 comments

  1. Good luck Matt and the Bulldogs. You ARE the Indiana team this year. We are all Butler fans this weekend.

  2. I’m not a Butler fan this weekend or any other weekend. I root for only ONE team over Michigan State, and that’s Indiana. Butler is about to face an opponent unlike they’ve seen so far in the Big Dance this year. One with talent AND coaching/discipline/toughness.

    Sparty On!

  3. You people that are cheering against Butler are a bunch of provincial morons. You give the entire state and IU in particular a bad name, cheering against such a wonderful story because it’s not IU and one of their players didn’t like Cellvin Sampson.

    We should all be behind the Indiana school first; Big Ten second; and the Knight coaching tree third. That means we have only West Virginia to truly be against.I will exclude any established MSU fans from this.

    I don’t blame Howard a bit for not liking Sampson. I didn’t like him either, and neither did a lot of IU supporters. And Howard clearly is, or at least was, an IU fan, until the massive screw-up visited on the program by the esteemed Adam Herbert. So to be against Howard and Butler because they objected to the prostitution of the IU tradition under Herbert/Sampson is a superlative example of sour-grape small-mindedness.

    GO BULLDOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Eric,

    That is dumbest thing I have ever heard. People can cheer for whoever they want. Truthfully, I like Duke and hope they win. I respect your decision, but I don’t need to be told who to root for.

  5. Agree with Jubilee…Eric, root for whoever you want, don’t tell others who they should/shouldn’t root for to win.

    Besides, all of the ‘Johnny Come lately’ bandwagon fans that live in teh state of Indiana annoy the bejeezus out of me.

  6. I’ve always had a soft spot for Butler since I went to my first game at the fieldhouse in the ’70s. Go Bulldogs!

  7. Okay, I’ll retract telling people who to cheer for, but I will not retract my criticism of not liking Matt Howard because he didn’t like Cellvin Sampson. And if MSU wasn’t playing Butler, I’d be for them, as I was last year against UConn and the hated Tar Heels.If they beat Butler, I’ll be for them in the title game.

    I am not a Butler bandwagon fan and don’t even live in Indiana anymore, but I do think that because Indiana is a basketball state; IU isn’t carrying the banner right now; and it’s not Purdue, everyone from Indiana should default to Butler. But I did not mean to dictate to anyone who to cheer for. I just got wound up at what I regard as the sour grapes attitude of some IU fans who refuse to cheer for anyone else from the state. What good does that do this year??

    Bobbie Sue, for the record, I 1)lived in Indiana from birth to age 27; 2)attended Hanover and IU; 3)have as my first hoops memory my Dad getting extremely excited as the’76 title game victory against Michigan neared completion of an undefeated season (it was just short of my 6th birthday); 4)consistently cheer for the Big Ten except in unusual circumstances like Butler getting to the Final Four in Indy; and just for fun, 5)was sitting on the floor in the student seats when Calbert Cheaney broke the Big Ten all-time scoring record against Northwestern in March 1993. It was a 3-pointer from the left corner on a pass from Damon Bailey and was shot right in front of me. Look it up. I have never fully recovered from the loss that year in the regional final to Kansas.

    I believe this puts aside any notion of me as bandwagon Butler fan who doesn’t know Indiana basketball history. I can go into Branch McCracken-era history if necessary.

  8. Chill, that was good!

    I just don’t see the point of cheering against Butler because one of their players didn’t like Cellvin and IU went 10-21. Believe me, I live in Tennessee, and people here think Butler is a wonderful story and want them to win. A local talk radio host even said, ‘I want a movie out of this, go Butler!’ This from people who are generally neutral on anything Indiana. Thus it seems ludicrous that people actually living in or from Indiana would cheer against Butler. These are the same people who bad-mouth recruits who don’t choose IU.

  9. Eric,

    I was a junior in that ’93-’94 season and didn’t have as good of seats as you for Calbert’s record-breaker, but I do believe it was a 2-pt jumper from the wing, not a three.

    Didn’t mean to single you out as a bandwagon jumper, it’s just that they’re EVERYWHERE in Indiana…and not just this week.

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