Butler's Life Has Come Full Circle
Friday, September 9, 2005
Caron Butler has played in huge basketball games ever since he was a 19-year-old freshman performing for one of the nation's top college programs at the University of Connecticut.
From having the ball in his hands during crucial NCAA tournament games to performing in NBA arenas throughout the country, the Washington Wizards forward has faced his share of pressure, but none of that prepared him for walking onto the set of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in May.
"It was a crazy experience because she is a woman who everyone in the world looks up to," Butler recalled. "I mean, you walk in there and one of the first things you see is a picture of Nelson Mandela on the wall. That's when you realize just how big a situation it is. To go in there with my mother, whose been watching Oprah for years, it was just a really exciting experience, something I won't ever forget."
Butler, who was acquired by the Wizards in July in a trade that sent Kwame Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers, was a guest along with his mother, Mattie. The show, titled "How My Worst Moment Made Me a Star," will air at 4 today on WJLA-7. Grammy winner Kanye West was also featured in the show.
Butler said the sometimes emotional interview focused on how he overcame his rough upbringing in Racine, Wisc., where as a 14-year-old he was sentenced to 16 months in a maximum security youth facility after being arrested for bringing an unloaded gun and a small packet of cocaine to school.
After his release, Butler transferred to Ethan Allen School for Boys, a correctional school in Wales, Wisc. Things got off to a rocky start there when Butler landed in solitary confinement in his first week after getting into a scrap with a rival gang member from Racine.
During that time in solitary, Butler decided he had to take a different path. First, he caught on with an AAU team in Racine and then, as a junior at Racine's Park High School, he averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds and earned all-state honors.
Butler then took his game to Maine Central Institute, a prep school where his skills on the court and excellent behavior earned the attention of several of the top college programs.
Butler chose Connecticut, where as a sophomore he averaged 20.3 points, was named co-Big East player of the year and led the Huskies to the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.
After he was selected with the 10th overall pick of the 2002 NBA draft by Miami, Butler found himself examining how he turned his life around so suddenly. Now he hopes his story will have an impact on young people.
"There might be a kid out there who has been through some bad things and maybe seeing me, someone who has been through the things I've been through will help them," Butler said. "I don't necessarily mean playing in the NBA. It can be school. It can be music. It might be helping other people. There are so many better things that you can do with your life. We all go through some difficult things, but once those things happen, the question is: How are you going to respond?"
The show was taped in early May, when Butler was still a Laker and before he married his longtime girlfriend, Andriea.
Though initially shocked by the trade, Butler said he and Andriea are now excited about settling in Washington. Butler said he will be in town next Wednesday for informal workouts in preparation for the upcoming season. The Wizards will open training camp the first week of October and the preseason tips off Oct. 10.
"I'm just happy to be someplace where I'm wanted, where I can dig in and carve out a place for myself," Butler said.