WLU's Butler Tabbed as Bevo Francis Award Finalist
BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – West Liberty University All-American Bryce Butler has been chosen as one of the 10 finalists for the seventh annual Bevo Francis Award, presented annually to the nation's top small-college basketball player by the Small College Basketball website.
The 10 finalists were revealed Saturday night in a video compiled by Small College Basketball and released on the smallcollegebasketball.com website.
“There are anywhere from 13,000 to 16,000 players at the small college levels so to be one of the 10 players on this list of finalists is obviously a very high honor," Small College Basketball founder John McCarthy said. "Based on our selection criteria, each of these players has earned their spot on this list and have had phenomenal seasons. I am very grateful for the time and insight from our committee."
Butler is the first finalist from a Mountain East Conference school since another West Liberty scoring sensation, two-time national Player of the Year Seger Bonifant, was tabbed as a finalist for the inaugural Bevo Francis Award following the 2015-16 season.
Butler's selection comes as no surprise following a spectacular season that saw him sweep nearly every conference, regional and national away possible while leading Coach Ben Howlett's Hilltoppers on a deep post-season run that carried all the way to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game in Evansville, Ind.
The 6-5 junior forward was the model of consistency and production throughout the season. He scored double-figures in all 37 games and went for 20 or more points 26 times. At his best when the spotlight shone brightest, Butler had five 30-point games, including a 30-point night in the Atlantic Region final win against No. 3-ranked Indiana (Pa.) and a game-high 32 points in the hard-fought setback against unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Nova Southeastern in the national championship game.
The versatile swingman checked off a lot of boxes on the stat sheet every night. In addition to leading the nation with 829 points and a school-record 332 field goals, he ranked 19th nationally with 280 rebounds, 20th in field goal percentage (59.2%), 30th with 10 double-doubles and 39th with 134 assists.
A COVID junior with one year's eligibility remaining, Butler ranks 10th among WLU's all-time scoring leaders with 1,913 career points and has helped lead the Hilltoppers to a sparkling 107-16 (.870) record in his first four seasons on the ASRC hardwood.
A first-team All-American and first-team Academic All-American, Butler repeated as the Mountain East Conference and Atlantic Region Player of the Year. He was also voted Most Valuable Player in the MEC Tournament after helping the Hilltoppers become the first MEC team to win back-to-back tourney titles. He was MVP of the Atlantic Region Tournament, as well, as West Liberty breezed to its seventh regional crown with three straight double-digit wins.
The winner of the 2023 Bevo Francis Award will be announced on Monday night at halftime of the NCAA Division I National Championship Game.