Kylie Butler

Desert Vista junior guard Kylie Butler will be heavily counted on this season for the Thunder after averaging 12.3 points last season.

Kylie Butler has a crazy notion that she is going to dunk in a game before her career is done at Desert Vista.

Considering the junior guard stands just 5-foot-7, it is hard to imagine - unless you have seen her play.

Then you've seen the ridiculous athletic ability, the vertical leap, the blocked shots - she is second on the team with 11 - and it seems a little more feasible.

"I wouldn't put anything past her," Desert Vista coach Rachel Proudfoot said. "She is so athletic and can do just about whatever she puts her mind to. Ever since she was a freshman, I said she could high-five Jesus."

Teammate Emily Wolph calls her a "super freak" athlete.

"There are times where you can't believe some of the things she does," Wolph said. "She has those ‘wow' plays."

Butler can touch the backboard. It's a long way from actually dunking, but just goes to show what she can do. Here's the thing - her athleticism is now just another asset to her game when at one time that's all she relied on to make plays.

"Her knowledge of the game has grown tremendously since she was a freshman," Proudfoot said. "She still does some crazy athletic things on the court. If I need a steal I can tell her, ‘Go steal that ball,' and she usually does, but now there is substance to her game."

Butler admits that there was a time when she just relied on her quickness to get the job done.

"I really didn't understand the little things you can do to make the game easier," she said. "I'd just played on instincts and my athletic ability. Now, I understand the game a lot more and how to get my teammates more involved instead of playing as an individual."

Butler is in her third year on varsity and her all-around game has helped the Thunder to a 14-3 start heading into Friday's game at Marcos de Niza.

Desert Vista finished second in its division at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler, and then won the Northwest Desert Classic in Tucson where they went 5-0 and won by an average margin of 26.8 points.

Butler was named to the all-tournament team after scoring 18 points in the championship game.

Overall, Butler is averaging 13.1 points on 50-percent shooting from the field, a team-best 3.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals.

"She has really come into her own," Proudfoot said. "When we put her on varsity as a freshman we knew she would be fine because of her athletic ability, but now she is a more complete player."

Part of the development comes from playing with Wolph, a sophomore guard who was named MVP of the Northwest Desert Classic.

"They feed off of each other," Proudfoot said. "They make for a tough 1-2 combo."

Wolph is averaging 14.5 points, 2.4 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals.

"We work well together," Butler said. "She pushes and motivates me to be better. We love when we get a steal and it is a (2-on-1) break because we know no one can stop us."

The biggest difference in Butler, who averaged 5.0 points as a freshman and 12.3 as a sophomore, just might be her ability to shrug off negativity.

"She consistently has one look now," Proudfoot said. "She is just stealth. She moves forward and shrugs it off, whereas before it would have led to three technicals."

Butler's maturity level has become the most important part of her game because she knows certain things - a referee's call, a teammate's mistake or a bad shot by herself - would make her lose focus in previous years.

"I am more collected now," she said. "I'd get mad and not play as a good teammate. I've definitely overcome it because the negative energy doesn't do anyone any good. Now, I try to stay calm and realize I have to be ready for the next play."

And, who knows, maybe one time that next play will be a dunk.

"I don't know what my vertical is, but I have to get there," she said. "I'll keep working on it. I've always been able to jump. I guess it is in the genes."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter at JSkodaAFN.

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