INDIANAPOLIS – Things aren't easy right now for Jackson Aldridge.
The Butler junior is fighting for his basketball career within the Bulldog program. And to complicate matters, his “best bud” is transferring from Butler, which is costing him a roommate and confident that he's enjoyed for the past two-plus years.
When Butler junior wing Andrew Smeathers announced earlier this week that he would be leaving the Bulldog program, it wasn't a surprise to Aldridge, who has been by Smeathers' side since the day Aldridge “got off the plane” from Australia to attend Butler.
“It is difficult to see your best friend go,” Aldridge said. “But at the same time, I understand his decision. I understand that he's made a decision for his basketball career and that is what he wants to do. So I fully support him as a best friend.
“That's what you've got to do. It's to look at what's best for him rather than to be selfish and ask for him to stay here for me.”
Smeathers and Aldridge bonded not just because when Aldridge arrived in America, Smeathers' family took him in from Day One and made him feel welcomed, but also because their journeys at Butler have been similar.
Smeathers battled injuries, and later competition, which never really allowed him to get on the court as much as he would've liked. And in the case of Aldridge, he's found himself often playing behind former walk-on Alex Barlow at the point guard position, and now the Bulldog coaches have brought in freshman Rene Castro as another obstacle.
Last season, the 6-foot Aldridge had his minutes cut from 478 as a freshman to 145 as a sophomore. All of that begs the question, will that be reversed in the positive direction this year or continue its downward trajectory?
“We're still working on our rotations,” Butler coach Brandon Miller said. “But at the same time, our older guys have put themselves out there to the point where they are not set by any means, but we have a better idea of where our rotations are going to be.”
Where that leaves Aldridge remains to be seen. But where Aldridge will remain is in Indianapolis for the entirety of his career.
Despite the possibility of facing limited playing time over the next two seasons, he isn't contemplating following the path of Smeathers – for a number of reasons.
“Leaving is not for me,” Aldridge said. “As this whole (situation) has been going on this week, people don't understand, just how attached Andy was, and I am, and everyone else is, to this program and this place.
“It's not just leaving a basketball team for more playing time. It's leaving your best friends. It's leaving your schoolwork. It's leaving what you have here. It's not just leaving a basketball team. It's not that simple.”
What is “simple” to know, but difficult to often implement, is what will be expected from Aldridge by his coach in order to him to enjoy his final two seasons by playing more.
“Jackson has been solid on both ends of the floor,” Miller said. “He's continuing to practice hard. I think he's gotten better since this summer. He just needs to continue to be solid and learning our system as a junior, where he is doing what we need him to do on the offensive end and the defensive end.
“That's doing the right thing and being a guy that is in the right spot. Who is doing the right thing consistently on both ends of the floor.”