Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brett Ballard’s second recruiting class fills roster holes

June 30, 2011

The Baker University men’s basketball 2011-12 basketball season will include several firsts.

One will be the absence of former Heart of America Athletic Conference members William Jewell College and Lindenwood University, and the other will be seven new recruits who will put on a Baker jersey for the first time.

Six of the seven recruits are from Kansas and Missouri, and head coach Brett Ballard said a focus of the program was finding athletes from the area.

“I think if we do our job, I think that we should be able to recruit this area pretty strongly and hopefully, time in and time out, get some quality kids from this area,” Ballard said.

Baker brought in five transfer students; Todd Ellis, a guard from Washburn University, Jordan Honore, a point guard from Johnson County Community College, Todd Johnson, a guard from Cloud County Community College, Kevin Lysaught, a guard from Kansas City Kansas Community College and Ben Steinlage, a post from Cloud County Community College. Ellis and Johnson will both have three years of eligibility left while at Baker.

“I think we don’t want to bring in all (junior college) guys because, you know, two years from now you’ve just got such turnaround,” Ballard said. “But I really like the fact that these guys have experience.”

Also new to the team are Brandon Moore, a guard who averaged 25 points per game in high school in Jefferson City, Mo., and Nick Wilson, a post player who will also be a place kicker for Baker’s football team.

“I think we were able to address a lot of needs in a lot of areas,” Ballard said. “And actually, we’ve still got one more guy out there that I think will be another impact kid. I think, overall I feel really good about it and the reason I’m excited is I think this is a really competitive group.”

Senior Connor Bechard said the team has already played together this summer and thinks this recruiting class is talented and the team will be deeper than last year.

“They’re tough and they know how to compete and they came here to win and I think, it’s just, (Ballard) knew what he was doing when he recruited,” Bechard said.

The Wildcats lost seniors Jaris Wommack, Andre Strozier, Austin Bond and Manuel Medina from last year’s team. With losing so many players to graduation, Ballard said he feels good about the players he has returning, but there will be spots where playing time will need to be filled.

“I think that we have a good foundation coming back, but at the same time I think these new guys coming in, that was one thing we were able to sell in recruiting, and legitimately sell, was there’s playing time,” Ballard said. “There’s open playing time. There’s no positions locked in.”

In Ballard’s inaugural season, the Wildcats improved on a 3-17 HAAC and 10-20 overall record from 2009-10 season to go 8-12 in the conference and 12-18 overall and narrowly missed a bid for the conference tournament last year. Baker also defeated MidAmerica Nazarene University for the first time in more than a decade.

Bechard said the goal every year is to win the conference, and he is excited for the start of the season.

“I think it really is going to be a fun year,” Bechard said. “There’s still probably going to be some growing pains because we have so many new guys coming in but … we have a lot of things to build on that the seniors last year laid the foundation for, and I think you’re going to see that continue to develop next year.”

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