<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Junior guard Spencer Butterfield has quickly endeared himself to Utah State fans in his first year as an Aggie. After starting the season coming off the bench as the sixth man, an injury forced Butterfield into the starting lineup, where he immediately became an important contributor.
With the loss of two more starters, Butterfield has seen his role increase even more, and he has stepped up to the challenge.
“Really, it’s kind of crazy. I had no idea coming into this I’d be playing as much as I am and I’d be such a big part of what we’re doing. It’s good and bad, I can’t really put it into words,” Butterfield said. “I wouldn’t want it this way, but I’m happy to have the opportunity to step up and hope that I continue to step up and get better, play harder, and help my team out more and more each game.”
In the last three games since Utah State discovered the extent of Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin’s injuries, Butterfield has recorded three consecutive double-doubles, and is averaging 16.7 points and 12 rebounds per game. The double digit rebounding number is particularly impressive considering the guard’s 6-foot 3-inch size.
“He’s 6’3” and he’s not the greatest athlete in the world, but he’s just relentless. He just has a great knack for it and a great feel for it, and his instincts are to go rebound every time,” USU assistant coach Chris Jones said. “He just goes, and he goes, and he goes. If you try to block him out, he just throws you out of the way and just keeps going. He has an awesome mentality, loves to rebound, loves to board it. We’re thankful he’s doing that for us.”
That mentality is something that has shaped Butterfield’s life from an early age. Born in Provo, he grew up in Loomis, Calif., as the oldest of Darren and Jerilyn’s five children. According to his parents and coaches, confidence is something he has never been lacking in.
“From day one he’s been pretty determined, and he’s a very determined little soul. At the age of two he had a basketball in his hand, and he was out there playing ball for hours and hours and hours,” Jerilyn said. “He is very competitive, and he is very driven. If there’s something he’s going to do, you just move, watch out, and watch a miracle happen.”
One of those moments came when Butterfield was in eighth grade. That year, he played on a competitive team that was also joined by a young man who was mentally disabled. The team traveled to a tournament in the Tahoe area, and in the finals, it became the goal of the team and Butterfield to make sure this young man not only attempted a shot, but scored in the game.
“I’ll bet you Spencer handed off to him a dozen times and he could not put that shot in. Finally he did, and it was just really endearing because Spencer just went after the ball. He’s a pretty good rebounder. He’s small, but for some reason that kid comes up with the ball and you’re like, ‘How did you find it?’”Jerilyn said. “He would get that ball and would shoot it back out to him. This kid just was so excited, and it just really made everyone almost cry. (Spencer) was determined that this kid was going to make a shot, and he did, and he worked his little tail off to make sure that he kept getting that ball.”
As determined as Butterfield is on the court, he is equally determined off of it. He exceled in multiple sports in high school, including football and tennis, and also enjoys golf. He works hard in the classroom as well, and is a skilled mechanic. It is a rule in the Butterfield household that you must pay for your first car. Having purchased his first car at an early age, he quickly mastered the art of “flipping” them and making a little extra money.
As is often the case with competitive and driven individuals, Butterfield doesn’t take kindly to losing either.
“I remember one time we were at Preston’s house, and Preston’s girlfriend and Spencer’s girlfriend were playing like doubles pingpong,” freshman point guard Marcel Davis said. “Spencer beat me and this girl I was with, and then him and Preston were going at it, and going at it. Preston won, and like two days later Spencer was still mad. We were like, ‘Spence, it’s over, come on now!’ He’s just a fun guy to be around on and off the court.”
While being a fun guy to be around, Butterfield also provides veteran leadership and motivation for younger players like Davis, despite being in his first year in the program. Jones said Butterfield has been worth his weight in gold, and is good for the team. He said if teammates fail to match Butterfield’s competitiveness in practice – especially when it comes to rebounding – he embarrasses them. Opposing teams have quickly learned that as well.
“It’s a mentality. I don’t worry about how many points I score. The first thing I do is try to go get as many boards as I can, and the rest will follow,” Butterfield said. “I know that if my hustle is there, hopefully everything else will just kind of fill in where it needs to fill in. Going to get boards, in my opinion, is a way of hustling and going after it. I’ve just been trained that way since I was little.”
What many don’t know, is that Butterfield is as tough is he is driven. He has been battling back and hip pain since before the season began. His dad, Darren, said that he was originally supposed to have surgery before the season to remove a cist that is growing on his sciatic nerve. However, Butterfield opted to wait until after the season, and play through the pain.
His presence is certainly immeasurable for the short-handed Aggies, who ended a four-game losing streak – the longest in the Stew Morrill era – with a resounding victory at Idaho Thursday. Butterfield will continue to be a focal point of USU this season, and next year as the Aggies move into the Mountain West Conference.
“He’s the ultimate competitor. Whether we’re at his house playing pingpong, or darts, or playing basketball, he wants to win,” Davis said. “If he loses, it just makes him so mad. Having that kind of person on our team who has a win-at-all-costs attitude, is just great to have.”