Butler's record-breaking journey began on bench
Heather Butler has come a long way from her freshman year of high school.
She was benched by head coach Kevin McMillan, then head coach for Gibson County High School, for not wanting to shoot. Now six years later, the 5-foot-5-inch junior has not only kept good grades while at UTM, but she has also broken two records.
Before the season even started, Butler was selected as the preseason OVC Player of the Year. This was after the Skyhawks won the 2012 OVC Championship. The title as OVC Champion wasn't going to be Butler's only accomplishment before she was a senior.
According to utmsports.com, last season, Butler passed Pat Head Summitt for fastest player in the program to reach 1,000 points. She accomplished this feat against Morehead State on Jan. 23, 2012. That was her 50th career game. She earned the school record of most points scored in a single game. She posted 42 points on the scoreboard against Tennessee State on Jan. 30.
At the beginning of this season, Butler set comfortably with 1,349 points under her belt. She trailed UTM's All-Time Leading Scorer Mary Kate Long, who played at UTM from 1985-1989, by 405 points. Butler took the training now head coach Kevin McMillan had been drilling into her head and applied it to her games even more.
Butler and her ever-present sidekick Jasmine Newsome led the team against Baylor, Stanford and Hawaii in the Wahine Classic in Hawaii. Even though they lost, the team kept a cool head and pressed on. Butler continued to rack up points, and Newsome began to help with her many assists.
After the Christmas break, which really wasn't a break to the women's basketball team, Butler decided it was time to kick it into full gear. She kept adding points and points to her record. She was creeping up on Long's record with a quickness.
Butler didn't know about the record until they announced it. On Jan. 16, she entered the game against Southeast Missouri only six points shy of Long's record. According to utmsports.com, with 9:45 to play in the first half, Butler made a 10-foot jumper to surpass Long's 1,754 points. The Skyhawks went on to win against Southeast Missouri 82-71.
"I'm a very humble person," said Butler. "It's just me. People always congratulate me [on surpassing Long]. It's just another achievement. I'd rather have a team achievement."
Butler may have wanted a team achievement, but the young woman was on a roll. Unbeknownst to her, an even grander achievement loomed in the distance.
When Feb. 4 rolled around, Butler was sitting pretty with 69 consecutive games having scored a 3-pointer. She was tied with Loyola University's Maggie McCloskey. McCloskey held the NCAA title for scoring a 3-pointer in 69 consecutive games. Butler was looking to break that.
At the beginning of the game, Butler was obviously nervous. People had been talking about the record, and she felt as if she couldn't let her friends and family down. They obviously wanted her to break the record. But the jitters got the best of Butler as she was 0-for-11 for 3-pointers.
It took almost the whole first half. It looked as if Butler was going to go into halftime with an even bigger weight on her shoulders. The team was down by three and time was running out.
With 3:36 left to play in the first half, Butler got the ball. She was behind the 3-point line and went for the shot. It was nothing but net.
Butler had broken the NCAA record, and she was just a junior.
"At the beginning of the game, I was like, 'Ok, Heather, let's go into this game. Just relax.' Obviously that didn't help. When I hit it, I was like, 'Ok. I'm done. Let's roll,'" said Butler.
The Skyhawks went on to win the game against Eastern Kentucky University 75-60.
After the game, Butler's family honored her with a side-by-side picture of her with a basketball and a picture of her late father when he played football. It was a teary moment as Butler thanked her family for being there for her during all her ups and downs.
Butler wasn't the only one to break a record against EKU. Butler's partner-in-crime Jasmine Newsome broke the UTM assist record. UTM Hall of Famer Gwen Long held the record with 458 career assists when she played from 1985-88 and again from 1989-90. Newsome broke the record with 464 career assists.
Both women are very humble. Their accomplishments are nothing to them compared to team accomplishments. They are here to better their college program and themselves.
"After we leave, we don't want to come to a game and it be horrible," said Newsome.
They want not only their parents to see what they've achieved, but also the players coming up after them.
"I want younger players to be able to come in and look at what we did. We want them to keep the program going," said Butler.
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