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Mason's Natalie Butler breaks rebound record

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When she enrolled at George Mason University in Fairfax for graduate school, Natalie Butler wasn’t sure she'd be eligible to play basketball. Fortunately, the University of Connecticut alumna not only was able to play, but was part of the team that gave the school its first tournament win in the program’s history. The 6-foot-5-inch center personally broke the record for most rebounds in a Division I single season, ending with 563 rebounds in total.

Earlier in the season, Butler, a parishioner of St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield, looked up the record to see how difficult it would be to beat. “It was in the 500s and my heart sank.  I thought there's no way I’m coming close,” she said. But during a game March 16 she surpassed the record. The team lost in the second round of the NIT tournament March 18 to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, though Butler tied an NCAA record with her 33rd double-double.

“None of this would ever be possible without my coach (Nyla Milleson). This year was a godsend for both of us,” she said. “I’m humbled by the opportunity that was given to me.”

Butler grew up in Fairfax and graduated from Lake Braddock High School in 2013, where she was named the school's sportswoman of the year after scoring more than 1,000 career points and holding the record in single-season scoring average, career rebounds and career blocks, according to her Mason profile. Her father, Vernon Butler, played basketball for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and her brother is on the basketball team at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Her mother works for St. Raymond.

Butler attended Georgetown University in Washington for a year before transferring to the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Butler was redshirted her sophomore year, but played the following two years, where she saw action in all six of the NCAA tournament games during the 2015-16 season. She graduated in 2017 with a degree in communications, and is attending Mason to earn a degree in global affairs.

Butler believes her collegiate basketball career helped her put trust in God. “I was super excited that (playing at Mason) worked out. I had a lot of adversity (in college) — injuries, the redshirt year, personal things — and it all was very hard for me,” she said. “It’s almost easy to be faithful when things are going well but when you start facing those challenges, it tests your faith. I’ve changed my whole outlook on life because of my experience, and I feel incredibly blessed.”

After this semester, Butler hopes to take some time off from school and play professionally in the WNBA or overseas. “Things are going to happen very quickly, but nothing’s guaranteed,” she said with a laugh. “Looking back, I think that everything had a purpose. When people say God has a plan, I honestly believe it.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018