Graduate student guard Alliya Butts felt like NBA player Derrick Rose, and for good reason.
Like Rose, Butts was effective since the start of her career but tore an ACL. She struggled upon return from the injury before setting a career-high in points this season, as did Rose.
For Butts, her “Derrick Rose game” occurred against Tulsa on Jan. 29, more than 450 days after she tore her ACL. Butts scored 34 points in Temple’s 75-61 win and reminded the Owls and coach Tonya Cardoza of what she was capable of prior to her injury.
She set a new career-high in points and shot 5-for-10 from 3-point range. She finally was herself again, she said.
“It felt good finally to get back to myself, the old me,” Butts said. “I just keep working hard every day to get back to where I was before.”
Butts and Rose’s careers have followed similar paths. Butts immediately contributed in her first years. She started in 25 of 37 games and led the team in scoring during her freshman season.
As Butts averaged more than 15 points per game in her sophomore and junior years, she tore her ACL and was forced to redshirt her senior season. After rehabbing her knee Butts came back to Temple as a graduate student and had high expectations for her final season.
But Temple’s third all-time leading scorer had a “bumpy” start to her season.
This season, Butts has recorded six single-digit scoring games and scored zero points in a game which she played 27 minutes.
“I didn’t really look in the mirror, see if I was 100 percent,” she added.
“Throughout her three years, she’s been an explosive scorer for us,” Cardoza said. “But I thought to start the season, she wasn’t the Alliya that we know and are accustomed to seeing.”
When Butts struggled, the Owls struggled. Butts averaged 13.6 points per game, down more than a point from her sophomore and junior seasons, in Temple’s first 18 games. The Owls were 4-14 and riding a seven-game losing streak before Butts took her knee brace off.
Butts’ first game without the brace was on Jan. 26 against East Carolina. She scored what was then a season-high 28 points and propelled the Owls to their first win in eight games.
“When I had the brace on, I was still hesitant,” Butts said. “Then one day I just took it off for the [ECU] game and I just felt good and I continued to play like that since.”
“When you have an injury like that, it’s demoralizing, and then coming back is a lot of pressure,” freshman guard Marissa Mackins said. “You have to come back to be who you used to be or even better, so it’s a lot of pressure on you.”
The Owls went on a four-game win streak from Jan. 26 to Feb. 9. In those four games, Butts averaged 23.8 points per game and hit 14 3-pointers.
With six regular-season games remaining, Butts made her return to her old self in time to finish the season strong.
“Yeah, she’s back,” Cardoza said. “Her confidence, her swag, her explosiveness. She’s being the player that we all know she’s capable of.”