Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes and Unified partners are going to have a unique opportunity to learn from one of the most decorated basketball players in state history when Brian Butch holds his Unified Basketball Camp at Lawrence University in Appleton on August 17.
About 30 SOWI athletes and 30 Unified partners will get hands-on instruction on dribbling, passing and shooting fundamentals from Butch and his team of elite coaches at the camp, which runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This event is free for SOWI athletes and Unified partners and there are still spots available for people to learn from one of Wisconsin’s finest basketball players and coaches.
“I’m excited. This is a great situation. I get to do what I love, which is teaching basketball. The focus is going to be on teaching the game. Any way we can make the campers better, that’s my main goal,” Butch said. “Ultimately, I want the campers to have fun, enjoy the game of basketball and get excited about the game that I love so much.”
In his storied career with Appleton West High School, Butch was named Wisconsin Mr. Basketball by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association after his senior season in 2003. He was also named the Wisconsin High School AP Player of the Year twice as well as an All-American by both McDonald’s and Parade. He was just the fourth Wisconsin basketball player ever to play in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game, according to a 2008 story on Butch in the Wisconsin State Journal.
At UW-Madison, Butch was a First Team All-Big Ten player after his senior season when he helped lead the Badgers to the Big Ten Tournament Championship in the 2007-08 season. After graduating in 2008 he began playing professionally and since 2016 he has played in the Japanese professional league.
Butch has been offering his Brian Butch Basketball Camps for the last seven years but this is the first year Butch and SOWI are teaming up to give individuals with intellectual disabilities and Unified partners the chance to improve their games with hands-on instruction from the Polar Bear, a nickname given to Butch by ESPN analyst Steve Lavin during Butch’s UW playing days. Every year Butch selects a charity organization to partner up with for a camp. Past partners have included the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley and the 4H Club. SOWI is grateful to be the organization that Butch has partnered with in 2017.
SOWI athletes are grateful too. Grateful to get the opportunity to learn from Butch and his accomplished coaches. One group of athletes will be making the 45-minute drive together from Agency 4-15 in the Waupaca area just for the camp. After all, it’s not every day you get to work on your game with the help of Wisconsin basketball royalty. One of the athletes in that group is Joseph Kendrick, who plays basketball nearly every day and who is really excited about the camp. He’s looking forward to improving his game with the help of Butch, among other things.
“I’m excited to work on my handles,” Kendrick said. “Also, to be with other Special Olympics fam! To show the big dude (Butch) disability isn’t inability.”
Kendrick, who is 5-8 but bills himself as one of the highest jumping autistic athletes in Wisconsin, also has an ambitious request for the camp. “I’m hoping he (Butch) could throw me an alley-oop and I crush it,” Kendrick said.
Time will tell if that lofty wish is fulfilled, but one thing is for certain. Butch is right there with Kendrick in understanding that a disability doesn’t mean inability and that no one is being told they aren’t good enough at the Brian Butch Basketball Camp.
“People too often focus on what people can’t do. Our camp is going to focus on helping individuals of all levels and abilities just get better at basketball in an encouraging and positive environment,” Butch said.
To register for the Brian Butch Basketball Camp, please contact Jody LaPlante at firstname.lastname@example.org.