It wasn’t until Jared Butler made a conscious decision to “let go” that he finally heard his name called in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday.
Expected to go somewhere in the back half of the first round, the former Baylor Bear had to wait until the Utah Jazz selected him with the 40th overall pick, 10 selections into the second round. He was technically selected by the New Orleans Pelicans (his hometown team, having grown up Reserve, Louisiana), but they had already agreed to trade the rights of that pick to the Memphis Grizzlies, who earlier Thursday night traded it to the Jazz.
Jared Butler ➡️ Jazz
— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) July 30, 2021
“I tried to stay as tough as I could,” Butler told NOLA.com after getting picked. “It was at that moment I had just let go that we got the pick. I just didn’t understand. It’s a hard life. We don’t always understand the way God works, but his timing is impeccable.”
Jazz owner Dwayne Wade took to Twitter to welcome him to the organization.
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) July 30, 2021
Butler also declared for last year’s draft but ultimately decided to come back to Baylor. He ended that tweet announcing his return with Jude 1:24, which says, “To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy…”
The extra year in Waco paid off in a big way, as the Bears won their first national championship in program history and Butler was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. He followed up a 17-point performance in Baylor’s dominant win over Houston in the Final Four with 22 points and seven assists in the national championship game against Gonzaga.
A consensus first-team All-American, he averaged 16.7 points and 4.8 assists in 2020-21 while improving his draft stock.
“Butler swayed scouts this year by improving his shooting, playmaking and defense while leading Baylor to a national championship,” Bleacher Report draft analyst Jonathan Wasserman said in his mock draft. “He comes off as an easy fit anywhere based on his ball-handling for creation and convincing spot-up three-ball.”
In his tweet announcing that he would be turning pro this year, Butler thanked Jesus for leading him to Baylor.
“I can’t explain how grateful I am for the past three years I’ve spent at Baylor,” he wrote. “I’m so thankful that Jesus directed me to this great place and gave me relationships and experiences that will last a lifetime.”
The reason for Butler slipping in the draft could be attributed to a late medical clearance he needed to play in the NBA. He was diagnosed with a heart condition prior to college, and though it never impacted him during his three seasons at Baylor, the 20-year-old needed clearance from the NBA’s Fitness-to-Play Panel to enter the draft.
As he waited, he was unable to play or practice in any capacity with the NBA, such as going through workouts for teams. He was finally cleared July 17.
has unanimously confirmed my fitness to play in the NBA. Now, my focus is entirely on the Draft and working daily to prepare myself to fulfill my lifelong dream !!
— Jared Butler (@J_Hooper11) July 17, 2021
When Butler was not starring on the basketball court, he spent time teaching Sunday School classes at Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco.
“I’ve been fortunate to teach second and third graders this year in my down time,” he told Sports Spectrum in March. “It’s always good to be with them and they do a great job of listening every week. It’s a blessing to get to share the Gospel with them. I love it and glad to be asked about it.”
He’ll now look to get involved with a church community in Utah. Butler is expected to be a member of the Jazz’s summer league team, which begins play in Las Vegas on Aug. 9 against the Phoenix Suns.
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