Ken Davis

Butler, Griffin find homes away from home during standout basketball careers

by Ken Davis April 05, 2010 in Men's Basketball, Women's Basketball

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Da’Sean Butler left his home in New Jersey to become a West Virginia Mountaineer. Kelsey Griffin journeyed far from Alaska when she decided to attend Nebraska. They both found perfect locations to excel as basketball players and to continue their educations, but they really found much more than that.

Griffin and Butler found new places to call home.

Put together all the pieces and it’s easy to understand why Butler and Griffin were voted the men’s and women’s basketball winners of the 2009-2010 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. They are winners on and off the court, and they are senior athletes who have taken time from their own busy schedules to make a difference in their university communities.

They excelled in all four areas – community, classroom, character and competition – that the Senior CLASS Award was designed to represent.

“This award is a great honor because I’m excited about the recognition, not only athletically, but academically and in the community,” said Griffin, who led the Huskers to a 32-2 season and the Sweet 16. “I’ve had the privilege to work with kids and to be able to give back. To be recognized for those things is exciting for me.”

Griffin, a biology major with a 3.5 GPA, said she found her time distributing food to the homeless at a Lincoln soup kitchen last fall to be very rewarding. And she particularly enjoyed her time reading to second graders at the Belmont Elementary School. She is only the second Nebraska player ever to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. During her career, the 6-2 forward overcame mononucleosis, breathing problems, a broken rib and a foot injury that required two surgeries. In addition, her father was diagnosed with throat cancer during her time at Nebraska.

“He’s doing great now,” Griffin said. “All of his scans have been coming up negative, which is a good sign. That definitely was the toughest thing to deal with. It’s a feeling of helplessness. I’m kind of a control freak, so having that out of my hands was really hard.”

Butler, a second-team All-American who hit six game-winning shots this season while leading the Mountaineers to the Final Four, didn’t take a break from his service just because West Virginia was headed to Indianapolis. Two days after WVU defeated Kentucky in the NCAA East Regional championship, Butler visited a fan in a Morgantown hospital. Agnes Channel, 74, had suffered a heart attack watching the Mountaineers on TV earlier in the season and she was elated to see Butler’s big smile.

“When she told the story, she was funny,” Butler said. “As she was having her heart attack, the ambulance got there but the game wasn’t over. She told them, ‘I’m not going anywhere until I watch the rest of the game.’ And she didn’t. It’s amazing how the people of West Virginia are behind us. It gives people something to call their own.”

Butler, who entered his senior season with a 2.83 GPA, said he is particularly proud of his involvement with the Read Aloud program in Morgantown area schools and Coaches vs. Cancer at WVU. The 6-7 forward, who now hears his name mentioned in the same breath with WVU great Jerry West, attends many fundraisers, visits hospitals, and he never minds signing autographs.

“I’m a blessed individual,” Butler said. “I have a lot of things. I had it easy. I wasn’t sick as a child. But someone had to help me. Coaches came to camps and talked to me. Now I’m lucky that way and I just go and spend time with somebody. It’s not a burden. It puts everything in perspective. You just want to do what you can do.”