Going into his fourth and final season, senior guard Alex Barlow has played a variety of roles for the Butler Bulldogs. Joining the team as walk-on before his freshman year, Barlow has been a benchwarmer, a backup, an unlikely hero against then-No. 1 Indiana during his sophomore campaign, and eventually, a two-year starter.
However, for his third season in the starting lineup, Butler interim head coach Chris Holtmann will ask Barlow to play a role that he has only played before in limited minutes: shooting guard.
With "point forward" Roosevelt Jones returning to the Butler lineup this year after missing all of the 2013-14 season due to a wrist injury, Barlow will be asked to slide off the ball while sharing the lead-ball handling duties. Jones, an unconventional slasher with a nose for the basket and a powerful first step, will serve as Holtmann's point guard in certain lineups while Barlow helps to space the floor at the two.
Barlow has boasted an improved touch from 3-point range in practice, and with defenses collapsing on Jones as he barrels to the hoop, the 2013-14 Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year will find plenty of open looks from deep in the corner and along the arc.
"I think [Barlow] is invaluable to what we're doing," Holtmann said after practice on Thursday, Oct. 23. "The reason I say he's invaluable is because of how tough he is, how competitive he is, and he's made shots at a pretty high clip."
Known more for defensive tenacity and crafty passing during his first two years at Butler, Barlow transformed himself into a legitimate 3-point threat during the 2013-14 campaign. As a junior last season, Barlow boasted a career-high 3-point field goal percentage of 37.6 percent, up from a lackluster 25 percent in the prior year. Taking over 100 total attempts from deep, he also posted careers highs in points (6.6), rebounds (3.7) and assists (3.5) in 31 starts for the Bulldogs.
According to Holtmann, he will be able to shake things up and play Jones at point guard when junior guard Kellen Dunham, who led the team in scoring last season, goes to the bench.
"When you play, at times, a lineup of Roosevelt [Jones], Alex [Barlow] and Kelan [Martin], well, Roosevelt's your one there," Holtmann said. "Alex is your two and Kelan is your three, so that's a lineup we could definitely see...[Barlow] didn't play any two last year, but he'll play some this year."
Barlow joins a group of shooters, including Dunham, Martin, forward Austin Etherington, and forward Andrew Chrabascz, who will help to extend the floor for Butler this season. Featuring a versatile inside-outside lineup, Holtmann and the Bulldogs have the potential to throw a wide variety of sets at opponents, bouncing back from a difficult offensive campaign in 2013-14.