When a team loses a four-time All-MAC player and brings in eight new guys, things are going to be a little different. For Ball State, though, it’s changing its entire offensive philosophy.
Last year, head coach Billy Taylor felt his team, which finished 15-15, would settle to just look for Jarrod Jones. With Jones and his 14 points and 8 rebounds a game gone due to graduation, Taylor has focused on bringing more motion into the offense.
“We have to be able to move the basketball; we can’t have it die. That happened a lot for us (last year) because we were set-play oriented, but ball movement will be critical for us and being able to move and cut,” Taylor said.
For Ball State that all starts with junior Jesse Berry and replacing Randy Davis, who was second in the nation in assist to turnover ratio last year. He is the team’s top returning scorer, averaging a little under 10 points a game last year and will handle the point guard duties this season with freshman Marcus Posley.
“Everyone knew Jesse Berry and score, score, score (last year),” Berry said. “Now have to catch and find guys, trying to see who needs a bucket here, who needs a bucket to get going, and trying to be a creator as well as score.”
When Berry is looking to find his teammates, he’ll likely look toward senior Jauwan Scaife and junior Chris Bond on the outside. The two players averaged 13 points a game this season, but will be asked to put up the scoring slack lost with Jones. Bond broke his arm over the summer, but has returned to full practice. Scaife began to find his groove this summer on the team’s foreign trip to Canada.
“It’s a big year for him, being a senior,” Taylor said. “Certainly expect a big year from him and he expects a big year from himself with this opportunity. On our foreign trip he shot the ball extremely well for us.”
Inside the Cardinals have a lot to replace in Jones, but Taylor is hopeful as a group they can do it. It will look to returners Tyler Koch and Matt Kamieniecki and junior college transfer Majok Majok. The transfer has especially impressed Taylor with his abilities around the rim.
“He can score in the low post, has been a good passer and sees double teams and has the ability to make the 12-15 foot jump shot,” Taylor said of Majok. “He can rebound the basketball and is big and strong and can get the ball above the rim.”
Ball State’s new look certainly has the chance to prove itself this season as well. The Cardinals play five in-state teams, with trips to Purdue, Butler and preseason No. 1 Indiana.
“I’ve always grown up watching IU and Purdue, and even a little bit of Butler, and when I was in high school just watching them, and like, wow, you’d like to play for them or at least play against them,” Scaife said. “I’ve always wanted to play at IU and finally get this chance my last year. So, feel like it will be a good experience for us and chance to prove ourselves.”
Within the MAC, Ball State has to compete with Ohio, who made the Sweet Sixteen last season and returns all five starters. Beyond that, though, Taylor sees a chance for his team to compete with everyone.
“We lost a lot in our league last year, kind of mainstays for programs for four years,” Taylor said. “Most preseason magazines picked us fourth in the West (Division), but I never put much weight for it. Those magazines haven’t seen our teams, don’t know our personnel. For our team, it’s up to us to do what we can on the floor. Veteran guys are excited about the opportunity.”