By Jim Workman
Register-Herald Sports Writer
For Mountaineer fans, there is that lasting image of West Virginia star Da’Sean Butler spread out on the floor at the Final Four etched in their minds.
Face grimacing with pain. Sweat and tears pouring down his cheeks. A helpless expression in his eyes — the eyes of a hero accustomed to delivering his team and its legion of fans a big victory.
Of course, the historic march through the postseason for WVU, its first final four appearance in 51 years, ended on the floor at Indianapolis in a national semifinal loss to eventual champion Duke.
However, before that fateful moment when the 6-foot-7 senior forward suffered a torn ACL and sprained MCL in his left knee, there were many more positive moments to remember Butler for.
In fact, he became a nationally celebrated sports figure thanks to his clutch, game-winning shots.
Butler provided many thrilling moments for WVU fans in his four years in Morgantown.
Beckley area fans will have a chance to celebrate his career and purchase a collectible photo of Butler from the Dale Sparks Collection with the Mountaineer standout on hand to personally autograph it Friday, May 21, at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
“He’s really looking forward to coming,” said Sparks, a Beckley native who has been based in Morgantown for over 25 years. “Da’Sean is crazy about the fans. He’s very thankful about how they’ve supported the team.”
Butler finished his career as the third-highest scorer in the history of Mountaineer basketball with 2,095 points, behind only legends Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley.
Following the 2009-10 season, he was the first WVU basketball player to be named as a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, given to the national player of the year. He was a first team All-Big East selection and was named to the second-team AP All-America squad.
He scored a team-high 17.2 points per game as WVU recorded a single season best 31 victories.
Butler also won the prestigious Lowe’s National Senior CLASS Award.
The Lowe’s award “focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities,” according to the award website. “The award identifies personal qualities that define a complete student-athlete, with criteria including community service, excellence in the classroom, outstanding character and competition on the court.”
WVU coach Bob Huggins summed it up best in an interview with Mickey Furfari in March: “Da’Sean is a heck of a player. I think he is one of the best players to ever play here. He also, I think, is one of the best people.”
Last year, Sparks hosted a similar event in Beckley with former WVU football star Pat White.
“The fans in Beckley were phenomenal,” Sparks said. “It was a very good turnout. We expect the same for Da’Sean. He’s just as loved around here as Pat White.
“Sometimes the fans in the northern part of the state take for granted the opportunity to see the players,” Sparks added. “It’s a little harder for people in southern West Virginia to get to Morgantown. This event will give them more access to Da’Sean. They’ll be able to speak with him. We won’t be herding people through.”
Butler will be available for the meet-and-greet event from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Per event rules, if you wish to meet Butler, you will be required to make a minimum $25 photo purchase. No outside items will be autographed.
All items are fully licensed through West Virginia University and are authentic original photographs.
The event is sponsored by The Register-Herald, Little General Stores, West Virginia Coal Recovery and Hayden & Hart, PLLC.