George Mason adds UConn grad transfer Natalie Butler
George Mason women’s basketball coach Nyla Milleson has announced the addition of Connecticut graduate transfer Natalie Butler for the 2017-18 season.
Butler, a 6-foot-5 center from nearby Fairfax Station, Va., spent the last two seasons at UConn, playing in two Final Fours and winning a national championship in 2016. Prior to playing for the Huskies, she played one season at Georgetown, where she was named the Big East Freshman of the Year in 2013-14.
Butler, who graduated from Lake Braddock High School, is currently finishing up her bachelor’s degree at UConn. She will enroll in graduate school at George Mason and is eligible to play immediately.
“We are thrilled to have Natalie join our Mason family as she pursues her graduate degree and completes her collegiate eligibility,” Milleson said. “She is a tremendous person with high character and strong values, unbelievable work ethic that brings a passion for competing and winning. Her experience over the past 4 years having competed at the highest level will be invaluable for our program over the next year. Her size, scoring and rebounding ability coupled with her experience really fill a need on our team. Natalie’s impact will be felt the minute she walks on campus.”
“I would like to thank Athletic Director (Brad) Edwards, Coach Milleson and the basketball coaching staff for affording me the opportunity to join the George Mason family,” Butler said. “I’m truly looking forward to quickly integrating with the team and getting to know everyone better. Most importantly, I’m excited to work hard with the team and coaches this offseason as we all set our sights on a great 2017-18 season.”
Butler averaged 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 62 games in two years at UConn. During the 2016-17 campaign, she helped the Huskies reach their 10th straight Final Four. She averaged 5.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in 15.9 minutes a game. She played in 35 games, shooting 50 percent from the field, blocking 34 shots and dishing out 37 assists.
After sitting out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Butler made her UConn debut during the 2015-16 campaign. She played in 27 games, including both games of the 2016 Women’s Final Four as the Huskies won their fourth straight national championship. For the season, she shot 55.9 percent from the field while averaging 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in 12 minutes a game.
“I have really enjoyed getting to know Natalie and her family,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said in a release from Connecticut announcing Butler’s departure. “I understand why she has decided to transfer to George Mason and am happy that she will be able to play right away while pursuing her postgraduate degree. We’ll miss Nat and everyone at UConn wishes her all the best in the future.”
Butler began her collegiate career not far from home at Georgetown, where in 2013-14 she was named the Big East Freshman of the Year along with being tabbed to the All-Big East Second Team and the All-Big East Freshman Team.
She started and played all 32 games, averaging a double-double with 13.9 points and 13.3 rebounds a game. She was the top rebounding freshman in the country and ranked fifth overall.
Her 425 total rebounds were most by a Big East freshman in conference history. Her 24 double-doubles were ninth-most in the country and first among freshmen. She twice hauled down 20 rebounds, tying the league rookie record for most in a game. In addition, her 59 blocked shots set a single-season school record. She also led the Hoyas in minutes played, logging 36.2 minutes a game.
At Lake Braddock, she was an all-state center and averaged a triple-double as a senior in 2012-13 with 26.2 points, 17.8 rebounds and 10.1 blocks a game. She was a McDonald’s All-American nominee, Virginia State All-Star and two-time Washington Post All-Met honoree and a first-teamer as a senior. She was named Lake Braddock’s Sportswoman of the Year in 2012-13 after scoring more than 1,000 career points in addition to graduating as the program’s record holder in single-season scoring average, career rebounds and career blocks. She also played on the AAU circuit with the Fairfax Stars.
Her father, Vernon Butler, played basketball at Navy and is just one of five Midshipmen whose jersey number is retired. Vernon ranks second in Navy program history in points (1,952) and rebounds (1,115), behind only Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson. The front-court duo helped guide the Midshipmen to the 1986 NCAA Elite Eight.
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