Carrying on a family tradition in Latrobe boys basketball? The Butlers did it

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Thursday, January 13, 2022 | 6:01 PM


The Latrobe basketball roster is like a map of Western Pennsylvania. There is always a Butler.

But we’re not talking about a city or county, here. Instead, it’s a last name that seems to be branded into the scorebook — one that has become synonymous with the Wildcats’ program.

This year’s team has two more Butler boys, junior Landon and freshman Max — the last of the bunch, so they say.

They are following in the footsteps of their two outstanding brothers, Austin and Bryce, both of whom are starters at the college level.

Austin Butler, Latrobe’s all-time leading boys scorer, is a grad student at Charlotte, where he transferred after a strong four years at Holy Cross, while Bryce is a sophomore guard at high-scoring West Liberty, a nationally ranked Division II team.

Landon Butler is the leading scorer for the Wildcats (3-7), while Max is one of four freshmen coming off the bench for a team that wants to win now but has an eye toward the future.

“They all watch each other’s games and message each other,” said Eric Butler, a Latrobe assistant and the boys’ father. “They’ll say, ‘You should have done this or that.’”

Landon Butler said Christmas time was all about basketball — watching it, discussing it, playing it.

“We all sat around for hours just talking basketball,” Landon said.

How about that game of H-O-R-S-E?

“I win all day, every time,” Landon said with a sly grin. “But Max might be the best shooter out of all of us. He has the smarts.”

Landon Butler looks like his brothers — they all have the tight hair cuts, similar eyes and noses and long builds. Their father is 6-foot-7.

Eric Butler has watched his sons rise in the program. He sees similarities and differences among his backcourt boys.

“Landon is a true point guard,” he said. “Austin is more all-around. Bryce has gotten a lot stronger; he’s like a hybrid. Max might be farther along as a freshman than the others.”

Wetzel said he sees Bryce in Max, while Landon is a cross between Austin and Bryce.

“That’s nice to see,” Wetzel said with a reflective smile.

Max Butler also shies away from direct comparisons, but he is eager to learn from his siblings.

“I wouldn’t say I’m like any one of them, but I have taken bits and pieces from all three of them,” he said. “Having three older brothers playing basketball has helped me prepare for my freshman year both mentally and physically and how hard you have to work to play against older players.”

The comparisons end there, at least for Landon.

“You hear people say, ‘You’re not Austin and you’re not going to be Austin,’” he said. “That’s true. I’m not Austin. You have to bring your own game and do what you do.”

A burden and a challenge, Landon will always be in his brother’s shadows. It is a necessary evil sometimes in high school sports. But he also plays with pride as he carries on the family legacy.

“They have taught me a lot,” he said.

To the critics who say he can’t dominate or shoot like his brothers, Landon might reply, “Hold my Gatorade.”

He has range. When Latrobe played at home, Austin used to hit 3-point shots from New Derry.

“The volleyball stripe is where he likes to shoot it from,” Eric Butler said of Landon. “He’s 23, 24, 25 feet.”

Landon connected on a deep 3 late against Franklin Regional on the way to a 25-point night and a 55-48 victory in Section 3-5A.

Max also played key minutes, keeping the offense moving alongside senior Chase Sickenberger, part of the team’s one-two scoring punch with Landon.

Sickenberger played a few years with his brother, Ryan, who is now playing at Allegheny with former Latrobe teammate Mike Noonan.

Landon had a career-high 27 points and Max added 12 in an 83-58 win over Greensburg Salem.

“(Landon Butler) is a crafty player with a high IQ,” Franklin Regional coach Jesse Reed said. “All of those Butler kids are good, smart players. They work well together.”

Another freshman who is seeing minutes is guard John Wetzel, the son of head coach Brad Wetzel.

“I have been coaching for 30 years, 20 as a head coach,” Brad Wetzel said. “To be able to coach my son, that can be a challenge (for fathers). I want him to enjoy the high school experience.”

There have been times this season when the younger Wetzel is on the floor with the Butler brothers.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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