EAST ST. LOUIS — Shardae Butler wants to build on her father's legacy.
Butler, 27, has replaced her father, Hubert, as coach of the East St. Louis Flyerettes this season.
"I love basketball," Shardae Butler said. "This is home for me. I have been doing this since I was 8 years old and running track since I was 3. Being in the environment of athletics is my comfort zone. As far as getting the girls in school, that is my main goal as well. I want them to have the same opportunity as I had when I was growing up."
Shardae Butler's affection for basketball developed from wanting to be like her older siblings.
"We have a basketball court in our backyard and she would go out there with her sister and her bother, Stacy and Casey, and she would shoot," Hubert Butler said. "We had kids from the neighborhood coming over and she wanted to be a part of that. It just kind of escalated from that. Her brother would play out there with her from dusk to dawn, and her sister played basketball at Lincoln (High School). She was really a gym rat."
Butler played point guard for the Flyerettes from 1999-2003. She played at Western Kentucky for 2 1/2 years before getting homesick and finishing out her career at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
"She has been around basketball for a long time," Hubert Butler said. "Shardae played against ninth-grade girls when she was in the sixth grade. That's how explosive she was. An exceptional kid, an exceptional athlete. She just got it done on and off the court. And the most important thing: She's a wonderful daughter."
Butler's father coached the Flyerettes for the five years after longtime coach Charles McDonald retired.
Prior to that, Hubert Butler was school's volleyball coach for 18 years. He had coached in the East St. Louis school district for more than three decades.
Hubert Butler said he retired from coaching so he could spend more time with his wife, Francine.
"When you spend 35 years in the business, it was really time to spend some quality time with my wife," Hubert Butler said. "I have been gone for 35 years coaching. It was a decision ... I didn't even dwell on it. I just felt the time was right for me to leave. Leaving in good standing with respect with the school, the staff, the administration and with the kids. They were the most important thing in my life along with my family."
Shardae Butler said her strength as a coach is her ability to communicate with the players.
"I think because I am younger I can relate more to the girls on their level," Butler said. "As far as my coaching techniques, I am just like my dad. He has taught me everything."
Shardae Butler said the No. 1 thing she learned from her father was the importance of academics.
"Just his ability to motivate girls academically," Shardae Butler said. "That's the most important thing that my dad did. That was his first and main goal: To get the girls in school. And, that's what I'm striving to do."
Hubert Butler had a low-key demeanor during games. It was rare for him to argue with an official.
"I'm not going to say I don't get mad," Shardae Butler said. "I do get mad, but I control it pretty well. I might get a little madder than he does, but it's not that much of a difference."
"I've been watching her demeanor," Hubert Butler said. "She's kind of smooth and cool on the sideline as well."
While Hubert Butler continues to serve as a volunteer coach, he's taken a hands-off approach unless his daughter requests his help.
"If she needs me ... so far so good," Hubert Butler said. "She is a very independent type of worker. Like I said, if she needs me to help, I am there for her."
The last time an East St. Louis team went to the girls state basketball tournament was 1998, when the Lincoln Tigerettes placed third under McDonald.
"I definitely want to bring East St. Louis back onto the map in girls basketball," Shardae Butler said. "We've been out of the loop for a while."
The Flyerettes are 3-3 on the young season. They have five seniors in Tonisha Cox, Zsqualine Buford, Dynesha Powell, Tahjanae Harris, Alexus Handy, Arianna Elliott, Adrianna Elliott and Yikita Williams.
They also have juniors Brelannair Cox and Tonisha Mays and sophomore Janesha Munson, who all saw action on the varsity last season.
Shardae Butler feels her current squad has the talent to accomplish big things once they adjust to a new coach and a new system.
"It's all about adjustment right now," Butler said. "I have all the confidence in the world in these girls. I have a great group of girls. They motivate each other every day. We have a bunch of girls that nobody knows about, underclassmen that haven't been seen or heard about. We're slowly getting there. I really do think we have a state team. ... It's up to the girls to keep pushing in practice and do what us coaches are asking them to do."
The Flyers will play in the Peoria Manual Holiday Tournament later this week. They'll square off against Moline at 2:45 p.m. Thursday and host Manual at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.