Coach Butler optimistic about VUU’s hoop dreams

Fred Jeter | 10/9/2015, 7:53 p.m.
Virginia Union University will have plenty of new faces on the floor and on the bench for the upcoming basketball ...

Virginia Union University will have plenty of new faces on the floor and on the bench for the upcoming basketball season.

The Panthers will open Saturday, Nov. 14, at Shepherd, W.Va., with a new head coach, Jay Butler, three fresh assistant coaches and at least 10 first-year players.

Coach Butler’s aides will be Frederick Burroughs, Robert Johnson and VUU legend Ben Wallace.

Burroughs is a former assistant at Bowie State University, the University of the District of Columbia and Norfolk State and West Virginia State universities. He also has extensive experience working with women’s teams at Bowie State and Delaware State universities.

Johnson is a former VUU player whose son, Robert Johnson Jr., is a guard at Indiana University.

The 6-foot-9 Wallace is an alumnus of the VUU Class of 1996 and played in the NBA from 1996 to 2012. He was a four-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

“Ben gives us instant credibility in recruiting,” said Coach Butler, a teammate of Wallace’s at VUU. “He’ll do our strength and conditioning and help with the post players.”

The Panthers’ returning post players are 7-foot-1 Robel Hurui and 6-foot-6 Karo Adjekughele.

Transfers expected to play right away include:

• Dawud Grace Fisher, 6-foot-10, from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee;

• John Mitchell, 6-foot-9, from ASA College in New York City;

• Devin Moore, 6-foot-6, from Hagerstown, Md.;

• Danny McElroy, 6-foot-6, from Bowling Green, Ohio;

• Tavon Meeley, 6-foot-3, from Armstrong High School and Richard Bland College;

• Kory Cooley, 6-foot-2, from the University of the District of Columbia.

Coach Butler, who played on three CIAA championship teams under former VUU Coach Dave Robbins, has brought in a total of 14 new players, some of whom will be red-shirted.

Just six players returned to the squad that went 9-18 last year under Coach Tony Sheals’ lone season.

Heading the list of veterans is 6-foot-3 junior Ray Anderson, a preseason All-CIAA pick out of Wilmington, Del.

“It all starts with Ray,” said Coach Butler. Anderson averaged 14.8 points and four rebounds as a sophomore.

Others returning are Colton Lewis, Dashawn Barton and Robert Valentine.

The rest of the CIAA is taking a wait-and-see approach to Coach Butler. In a preseason vote of league coaches, the Panthers were picked to finish fifth in the six-team Northern Division.

“We hope to exceed those expectations,” said Coach Butler. “Our goal is to win the CIAA North and play Saturday night in the CIAA championship (tournament) game.”