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Against the odds, Butler freshman Khyle Marshall gets his shot at Final Four

As a high school senior last year, Khyle Marshall watched longingly as his future team, the Butler Bulldogs, made it to the Final Four and then the NCAA championship game. With Butler returning to the Final Four, Marshall doesn't have to live vicariously.

April 01, 2011|By Chris Dufresne
  • Butler forward Khyle Marshall celebrates following the Bulldogs' 74-71 overtime victory over Florida in the Southeast regional on March 26.
Butler forward Khyle Marshall celebrates following the Bulldogs'… (Chuck Cook / U.S. Presswire )

Reporting from Houston — Butler's once-in-a-lifetime trip to last year's Final Four was great news for everyone involved at Butler except for every future incoming recruiting class.

So much for their lifetimes?

"Hearing about what it was like last year from the veterans makes you jealous," Butler freshman Khyle Marshall joked Friday in Butler's temporary locker room at Reliant Stadium. "I watched last year and would just wish I had been born earlier so I could have been part of it."

Little did he know.

Marshall watched last year's run while still a senior at Flanagan High School in Florida.

"I was sitting at home in Florida when the buzzer went off at the regional, and I was jumping around with my family because the school I was going to had made the Final Four. We bought tickets to Indianapolis and flew up there to watch it in person, but I think this year will be a little better."

He thinks?

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The odds of Marshall making it back in a Butler uniform seemed insurmountable.

Unbelievably, though, once-in-a-lifetime struck twice. Butler will face Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday in the first national semifinal.

"Oh yeah, it's definitely a surprise," Marshall, dressed in his Butler uniform, said at his locker.

It's been even better than that, though, as Marshall has become a key contributor off the bench during the tournament.

The 6-foot-7, 210-pound freshman from Davie, Fla., played seven minutes in Butler's victory in the Horizon League tournament championship game and another seven minutes in the Bulldogs' opening NCAA tournament win over Old Dominion.

Marshall then contributed six points and six rebounds in Butler's upset of top-seeded Pittsburgh, seven points and seven rebounds against Wisconsin, and 10 points and seven rebounds in the overtime win against Florida that sent the Bulldogs to the Final Four.

"I just see myself as an energy guy," Marshall said. "Coming in and just bringing energy to the team. Having my teammates feed off me, getting offensive rebounds and defensive stops. Whatever it takes to help the team win."

Marshall once scored 52 points in a high school game at Flanagan, and he averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds as a senior. He set a school record with 25 rebounds against West Broward.

His role for now, though, is to chip in where he can and enjoy this unexpected ride.

Butler lost star Gordon Hayward off last season's team but returned several players — including Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored.

Marshall, initially, didn't know how he was going to fit into this mix, and frankly, things didn't look too promising when Butler was 14-9.

"We were just living off last year's team," Marshall said. "Everyone was talking about last year's team. Last year's team did this. Last year's team did that. We just had a meeting one night. In a hotel room, when we were on the road. It was like, 'Listen guys, we can't feed off last year's accomplishment and let that get in the way of what we're trying to do this year. This year's team is what we have now.' "

Butler has won 13 straight games since a Feb. 3 loss at Youngstown State.

Marshall said Butler's veterans, Howard and Mack, have helped him adjust to the madness of March.

"They've set a huge example for me, telling me how to react to it and handle it," Marshall said.

Last year, he was thrilled just to be associated with a Final Four team.

"People were calling me saying, 'Your future team is going to the Final Four,' " Marshall said.

It turns out last year was just the beginning.

This Final Four will be different for the simple fact that Marshall will playing in it.

Will he be nervous?

"I think I have some momentum going in," he said. "I've had three big games — three games that I have contributed a lot and helped the team win. I'm not really nervous. I'm just going to try to carry that momentum into this game and hope good things happen."

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/dufresnelatimes

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