Butler brothers bonded by basketball
Subheadline: Backcourt duo, academic standouts, hope to lead Jaguars to state crown
The point guard has a 3.4 GPA. The shooting guard’s GPA is 3.8.
The point guard excels in English, but truly loves numbers and the calculations in math. The shooting guard’s been a U.S. history buff since learning in elementary school about Christopher Columbus and the country’s growth.
The point guard is always thinking on the court: when to attack, when to slow the pace, at what angle to throw the pass, how many dribbles will it take to get to the basket.
The shooting guard, president of the school’s group that brings awareness to drinking and driving, was determined this offseason to improve his quickness and develop his outside shot. He did.
The Butler brothers — juniors Rashamel (point guard) and Devin (shooting guard) — have led Ridgeland-Hardeeville High’s boys basketball team (19-1, 6-1 Region 8-AAA) to the top of the region standings. Rashamel leads the team in scoring, rebounds and assists and Devin (second in scoring) leads the team in 3-pointers made.
Their basketball prowess is revered by classmates and coaches, but they are also known for their quiet, focused demeanors. The Butler boys excel on the court and in the classroom, but they’ll let others boast of their accomplishments.
“Although they receive weekly shout outs over the intercom for their performances and personal ones from me, they never let the success go to their heads,” RHHS Principal Karen Parker said. “These young men exhibit great character on and off the court.”
Said RHHS coach Jeremiah Faber: “They are both excellent leaders, great students in the classroom, and their teachers highly respect them.”
Rashamel and Devin Butler came to Jasper County from Baxley, Ga., when they were in the third grade. Both enjoyed football, but after middle school they gravitated to basketball. Rashamel emerged as a five-position standout and Devin’s game developed.
Coach Faber saw Rashamel’s raw potential and moved him up to the varsity as a freshman. It didn’t go well.
Rashamel struggled to grasp Faber’s concepts and his confidence suffered as the veteran coach continued to be hard on him.
“I remember it all, every little word,” Rashamel said. “There were a couple of weeks where I was wondering, ‘What is he doing? Is that how you can coach a basketball team?’ “
“He was heartbroken in practice, but we would talk. I encouraged him,” Devin said.
But Faber never stopped believing in Rashamel. He saw the ability to handle the ball well with both hands and the skills to get to the basket. He saw the height (6-foot-3) and long arms that would give opponents fits.
He saw a potential all-state point guard. Last season Rashamel gained more playing time, even earned a starting spot. He scored 17 points and sealed the region-clinching win last season against Wade Hampton by hitting six consecutive free throws in the final 35 seconds.
Rashamel learned to appreciate Faber’s tough love.
“I definitely grew more patient and believed in what he said,” he said. “If he sees potential in you he’s going to ride you hard to get you to where you need to be.”
After the season ended with a 67-65 buzzer-beating loss to Brookland-Cayce in the Lower State semifinal, Rashamel was ready to emerge. He was determined to be more vocal, to get stronger and understand the flow of the game: when to look to score, when to pass.
Faber welcomed Rashamel’s desire to take charge.
“I’m never going to stop pushing him; his ninth-grade year, he didn’t want it,” Faber said. “But I can’t be any happier with his maturity since ninth grade until now. We haven’t tapped into all his skills yet. I believe he can take his game up to several different levels.”
Rashamel, who scored 37 points in a Jan. 26 win at May River and 33 points in a Jan. 16 win over Wade Hampton and recorded a triple-double Dec. 30 against Southpoint, has drawn interest from Florida State University, Faber said, and Coastal Carolina University, Lander University, Savannah State and South Carolina State University.
“It’s amazing what can happen when a kid starts believing in himself,” Faber said.
Devin knew he had to get better if the Jaguars were to win a championship. He made it a point to work on his outside shot (he makes 38 percent of 3-point attempts) and work on his defense. He wanted his brother to be able to rely on him when Rashamel drove and looked to pass. Rashamel knows his brother likes the ball at the top of the key or on the wing.
“Everybody knows he’s going to attack and I can be on the outside ready to set up for him,” said Devin, a two-year varsity performer.
Devin scored 21 points against Wade Hampton Jan. 16 and hit five 3-pointers in a December win vs. Piedmont. He had 10 points and three steals in a win over Woodland.
“(Devin) hurt us during our second time playing him. He finishes well around the rim and also is a good free-throw shooter,” Woodland coach Byron Graham said.
The brothers talk basketball after practice at McDonald’s and they keep talking when they get home as they vie for supremacy in Madden NFL or NBA2K18 (Rashamel claims he always wins) and the basketball talk continues outside at the court near their home.
Basketball is a constant right now for the Butler boys and the intensity heightens starting Tuesday, Feb. 13 when the Jaguars, who ended last week ranked No. 1 in the Class AAA South Carolina Coaches Association poll, begin the state playoffs. The school has never won a boys state basketball championship. Faber hasn’t won a state crown in 33 seasons as coach.
The Butlers only have to look to last season for more motivation. Rashamel trailed Brooklyn-Cayce’s Lloyd Hemming in the waning seconds as he jumped for a last-second shot. Rashamel, on Hemming’s left, leaped and got a hand on the ball, but Hemming’s 3-pointer was good. Rashamel had the best view of the season ending in an instant.
“That can’t happen again,” Rashamel said.
The Jaguars have depth (nine players average at least 10 minutes per game), an aggressive defense (48.3 PPG allowed), savy (six players have a 3.4 GPA or higher) and can clinch a fifth straight region crown if they beat visiting Bluffton this Thursday. They suffered their first defeat last Friday in a 59-55 loss at Wade Hampton.
For inspiration Faber often points to the banner of the 2015 team that reached the Class AA state final but lost. This season’s team hopes to reach Columbia March 3, the day of the state championship, and finish on top.
“We are building something special,” Devin said.
RHHS brothers Rashamel and Devin lead the Jaguars in many statistical categories. Here’s a look at their numbers:
Name PPG RPG APG SPG FT Double-double
R. Butler 18.9 5.4 5.1 2.8 96 3
D. Butler 11.1 2.7 1.2 1.2 36 1