UW Health Sports Medicine 

From Polar Bear to Panda Bear



Former Wisconsin basketball standout Brian Butch has signed to play professionally in China for Jiangsu Nangang of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Butch becomes the highest-paid rookie in CBA history and joins one of the top teams in the league. The Jiangsu Dragons play in Nanjing, Jiangsu and are off to a 12-0 start in preseason play and begin their regular season on Nov. 8th.

Jiangsu Nangang considered many NBA-talent players for this spot, but liked what Brian can bring both on and off the court, Keith Kreiter, Butchs agent said. It should be a great fit.

A consensus first-team all-Big Ten honoree last season with the Badgers, Butchs 1,115 career points rank 24th in UW annals. He also ranks ninth in school history with 667 career rebounds and was a part of 97 Badger victories during his collegiate career.

Im really looking forward to playing basketball again, Butch said before leaving. Im excited for the opportunity. Once youre out of the college game you realize that this is a business and that there are no guarantees. Your eyes get opened up to that aspect of the game and Im just excited for the chance to play basketball for a living.

This next step in Butchs basketball journey appears to be a great launching pad for his career. Butch will be playing under former Marquette top assistant and Eau Claire native, Jason Rabadeaux, who now serves as the head coach for Jiangsu Nangang.

Although there was a lot of interest in Brian from European teams, we thought this was a great opportunity, Kreiter added. He has the chance to grow under Coach Rabadeaux, which is really important and there is so much NBA interest in China these days. This is a really good network for Brian to tap into. Hopefully this will position him with some NBA teams who will be able to follow him closely.

I think the fact that Coach Rabadeaux and I are familiar with each other is a unique opportunity at the pro level, Butch commented. I know going in that well be able to communicate and that hell know how to use me. That can sometimes be a challenge with foreign coaches or coaches who havent seen much of you.

Chinese natives such as Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian have begun their professional careers in the CBA before advancing to the NBA. In addition, former NBA head coaches Bob Hill and Bob Weiss now serve as head coaches in the CBA. Butchs Jiangsu Nangang roster will include one other American-born player, former New York Knicks draft pick and Florida Gator Donnell Harvey. He will also be teammates with several members of the Chinese Olympic basketball team.

This is somewhat of a detour to where I ultimately want to end up, but its going to be a great experience, Butch said. If it leads to the NBA, then great. If it doesnt, then at least I got to travel the world. There is a great connection between China and the NBA developing. Of course the Bucks recently played over there and that partnership between the NBA and China can only be a good thing for getting noticed by NBA teams.

Butch, who said he watched this years Olympics in China, admitted that he doesnt quite know what to expect living and playing overseas.

One thing I know about China is that the people there are very hungry for basketball, Butch explained. The sport is growing in popularity every day and the Chinese are excited for the season. I dont speak any Chinese, but as I understand it well have a translator which will help. As for the food, I like Americanized-Chinese food, but from what I hear its totally different. Ill have to report back on that part of the experience. The nice thing is that while everything might be new and exotic, its still just basketball. The sport doesnt change.

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