Jordan Butler’s Dream Year Continues at USA Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp
The 6-foot-10 forward and his older brother led their high school to its first South Carolina state championship in 2021.
While winning a state championship was a dream come true for Jordan Butler, this year has managed to get even better. That ’s because the 6-foot-10 forward was one of 24 players named to the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team minicamp that starts Thursday in Houston.
“First, I want to say it ’s a blessing, because that ’s everybody ’s dream as a kid to go play for your country and USA Basketball, so I ’m very excited to have this opportunity,” he said.
It ’s fair to say Butler won ’t be alone in sharing the sense of accomplishment after a sophomore season in which he helped Christ Church Episcopal High School out of Greenville, South Carolina, capture its first state title in basketball, while averaging 10.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. That ’s because he is part of a basketball-playing family that includes older brother John Butler Jr., who shined as the team ’s leading scorer in his senior season in 2020-21, with father John Butler Sr. the head coach.
Basketball was always going to part of the future for the Butler boys, with both parents as former players — the father measuring in at 6-foot-5 and mother Casie at 6-foot-3. The competition began early and often.
“My mom in college she played at the University of South Carolina, so when we played basketball as a family, at the local gym or whatever, we played 21 a lot,” Jordan Butler said. “And me and my brother played with each other a lot, and (it was like) iron sharpens iron.”
The brothers experienced huge growth spurts, with Jordan detailing what it was like to eventually surpass their parents in height.
“I ’ve always been tall, but I think going from fifth to sixth grade I shot up to like 6-foot,” he said. “And ever since then I ’ve grown three inches a year. So secondary (school), I was like 6-2, eighth grade I was like 6-5, ninth grade I was 6-7, and now I ’m 6-10.”
Surpassing his father on the court proved to be much more difficult. Jordan admits his father still gets the best of him most of the time in rare one-on-one matchups in the driveway, although he likes to let dad “hear about it” when he does prevail.
“He didn ’t take it easy on us at all,” Jordan said. “He doesn ’t really like to play with us one on one, usually it will be me and my brother going at it.”
The games at home, however, were more fun in nature compared to what it was like to play for his father in high school.
“When we ’re with the team, it ’s a lot more serious,” Butler said. “I think that he gets on me a lot harder because I ’m his son, but that ’s really important because when it ’s all about the team or getting in the gym in high school, there ’s no games at all, it ’s 100 percent serious.”
In addition to having his father as coach pushing him, there is the presence of his 7-foot brother. John Butler Jr. was a heavily coveted recruit who averaged team highs of 19.9 points and 8.1 rebounds this past season playing alongside Jordan. He has signed to play for Florida State University next season.
Having a top-performing sibling as a role model is something Jordan uses to his full advantage.
“Let ’s say we ’re in a workout, and I ’m getting tired. I see my brother working harder, and harder and harder, it ’s going to make me want to work harder, and harder and harder to get as good or better than my brother,” he said. “So, that ’s like a chip on my shoulder.”
As the brothers grew and saw their athletics progress, they became celebrities at home. Jordan Butler said it was uncomfortable at first getting asked in the mall how tall he was all the time, but he has become accustomed to it by now.
The attention the brothers get these days is more for how they play as opposed to their height. Both are tall and sinewy players who are as adept, or perhaps even more so, on the perimeter than inside.
“I ’ve always seen NBA players like Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, these bigger guys playing on the perimeter, so it really encourages me to try and do what they do, the same with my brother, and we ’ve gotten pretty good at it,” Butler said.
Now, he will turn his focus to his first experience with USA Basketball, with Butler recalling how he has a “crazy memory” of a 2016 USA Basketball exhibition game in which DeMar DeRozan nearly threw home a 360-degree dunk against China. His stated goal is to make the team and help the U.S. win gold at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Argentina in August.
“I think it ’s going to be good momentum, I ’m already going to be in the groove so hopefully that continues throughout my summer,” he said.