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Utah State's Spencer Butterfield drives around UC Santa Barbara's Zalmico Harmon during an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/Herald Journal, John Zsiray)
Utah State basketball: Butterfield’s Aggie career shaped by toughness

Senior’s determination has helped him make up for shortcomings.

First Published Feb 28 2014 02:59 pm • Last Updated Feb 28 2014 11:17 pm

Logan • Spend a day around Utah State practice, and Spencer Butterfield will always be one of the last ones off the court.

The senior guard never misses a chance to hoist up a few extra shots. After practice, after games, he’s out there, putting in the extra time. You can watch it.

At a glance

Butterfield’s big games

A look back at some of the career highlights for Spencer Butterfield:

Feb. 8, 2013 » 22 points and 10 rebounds in 27-point win over San Jose State

March 7, 2013 » Career-high 20 rebounds in return from injury in win over Texas State

Dec. 20, 2013 » Career-high 31 points in overtime win over UC Santa Barbara

Jan. 25, 2014 » 19 points and overtime-forcing shot in loss to No. 7 San Diego State

Utah State at San Jose State

At San Jose State Events Center, San Jose, Calif.

Tipoff »  Saturday, 6 p.m.

TV » Root Sports

Radio » 1280 AM

Records »  USU 15-13 (5-11); SJSU 7-20 (1-14)

Series history »  USU leads 51-21

Last meeting » USU 86, SJSU 67 (Jan. 4)

About the Aggies » It is only the second time in Stew Morrill’s tenure that Utah State has lost four straight games, with the other instance coming earlier this season. … Jarred Shaw is among the conference leaders shooting from the field (No. 3, 48.2 percent) and the free-throw line (No. 4, 82.7 percent).

About the Spartans » After starting out the Mountain West season with 13 straight losses, San Jose State earned its first conference victory over Nevada on the road last week.

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But what goes on after those last extra shots, almost no one sees. Every day, Butterfield spends time in an ice bath to soothe his hip, which he required surgery on in the offseason. He uses a foam roller to stretch it out, and he gets deep-tissue massage. Anything he can do to ease the aching, he does it.

"It’s quite a bit of stuff," he said. "I try to rehab as much as I can. I feel like I do more rehab than practicing."

In less than two years, the Loomis, Calif., native has proven there’s nothing he won’t do, no length he won’t strive for to get on the court to compete for Utah State. He put off surgery on his hip to finish the season last year, and now plays through more discomfort than most people will ever know, coach Stew Morrill said last week.

Still, Butterfield averages 31 minutes a night, putting up 13 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He hasn’t missed a start this year.

"It’s just a grind for him every day to try and perform with that hip," Morrill said. "He’s the kind of guy you love to have play for you because he’s going to give you everything he has. He’s not always going to be perfect or take good shots, but he’s going to try and do whatever he can to help your team."

In a trying season for the 15-13 Aggies, Butterfield has remained one of the unquestioned leaders of the program, setting the tone in practice with his work ethic. He’s never stopped believing there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved with more effort.

When he first joined the program, Morrill compared him to another standout Aggie scrapper, Brian Green. Now on the coaching staff, Green said he sees the validity of the comparison.

"He works harder than anybody," Green said. "It’s funny because both of us were in a similar situation where people thought we weren’t as athletic as other guys. He plays hard, and I think a lot of it comes down to toughness. He’s probably in more pain than we realize, but he’s mentally tough."

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That’s not to say Butterfield’s season has gone completely smoothly.

Since entering conference play, Butterfield’s numbers — and the whole team’s — have leveled out a bit. The last four losses, in particular, have been rough: He hasn’t shot better than 37.5 percent in any of those games.

But what gives Butterfield credibility among his teammates, even when he struggles, is his unwillingness to quit. When the shots don’t go down, he tries to make it up with his rebounding. Although he gives up speed to the players he defends, he tries to make it up with aggressiveness.

"I think he’s a great team player, and he plays real hard," Preston Medlin said. "Any guy like that, you can stick him in any program, any system, and he’ll help the team. He’s doing a great job, and I’m glad he’s on our team."

The farewell tour begins Saturday for Butterfield, as he plays in front of family at San Jose State. His Senior Night is next week against Wyoming, and after that will be the Mountain West tournament, which could be the final stop for Utah State this season.

But he’s never had much of a taste for endings. In his mind, there’s always something more to strive for.

"I don’t see the end of the season coming up yet," he said. "I see it as being weeks down the road. I don’t want to start thinking about that yet."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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