MEN'S BASKETBALL: Senior pride
Ball State looks to knock off Eastern Michigan in final home game for Chisholm, Watson
Brawley Chisholm and Terrence Watson take the same approach to the game of basketball.
No, they're not in your face. No, they're not pounding the court with two hands as the opposition brings the ball up the court. No, they don't crave all, if any, of the attention.
The two seniors of the Ball State University men's basketball team instead choose to lead by example in games, in practice and off the court.
Though both Chisholm and Watson have only had a short two years to establish themselves on campus, the duo forms a chunk of the foundation to coach Billy Taylor's plan of raising the Ball State program from the depths of college basketball hell. Both transferred to Ball State when not many other players would even dare.
And now they don't regret a single minute of it.
Tonight, Chisholm and Watson will be honored before they play their final regular season home game as Ball State plays host to Eastern Michigan University at 7 p.m.
"I'm kind of excited and sad at the same time," Watson said. "It's been hitting me for a while, I guess since the season started, that I'm a senior now and my last couple games and practices are coming to an end."
Taking a chance
When Chisholm and Watson decided to transfer to Ball State, they were entering a program in shambles after coach Ronny Thompson left amid controversy over racist notes found in the basketball office.
The Cardinals set a school record with 24 losses in the 2007-2008 season. Taylor was hired just three months before the season opener and given a depleted roster with no player taller than 6-foot-5.
But the duo enters tonight's game leading a Ball State team that is 15-11 and has an open path to its second-straight Mid-American West Division title.
Not many players would be willing to take the chance of transferring into a situation like Ball State's, but Taylor is certainly happy Chisholm and Watson made that decision.
"They've both been very instrumental [in the program's success]," Taylor said. "I'm just really thrilled for them that we've had the success so far this season and I'm hoping that we can really finish on a positive note since those guys have done so much for the program."
Big Apple heart
Chisholm, standing at 6-2 and weighing just 165 pounds, learned toughness growing up on the courts in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Out of high school, he chose Western Texas College, a junior college in Snyder, Texas, to prepare him for Division I basketball. In his two seasons there, Chisholm emerged as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, connecting on 43.8 percent of his 3-pointers during his sophomore season.
But when Chisholm chose Ball State for his final two years of college basketball, he entered a program littered with guards – both young and old. Instead of moping about his minimal role on last season's team, Chisholm used his time to learn from the senior guards – Brandon Lampley and Laron Frazier – while also forming a relationship with then-freshman guard Randy Davis.
Chisholm averaged just 6.7 minutes per game last season, but Taylor said he saw Chisholm as a vocal leader simply looking to make his team better.
This season, Chisholm plays nearly 20 minutes a game.
"I think it was a really good experience for him [last season]," Taylor said. "It prepared him for this season and being able to be successful"
Chisholm has had two full seasons to play for Ball State. But due to NCAA transfer rules, this season has been Watson's only time to showcase his multiple talents to the Worthen Arena faithful.
Watson transferred from the University of Mississippi following the 2007-2008 season. Looking for a little more than the 6.7 minutes per game the Rebels could give him, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Watson came to Ball State to become an instant impact player.
Watson instead patiently settled on being Ball State's impact player on the scout team. He used his time away from playing actual games to improve his jump shot and to learn Ball State's offense.
An All-City cross country runner at Murray-Wright High School in Detroit, Watson is now an instant source of energy in the paint for the Cardinals.
Watson averages 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds for Ball State, while leading the team with 36 blocks.
Taylor said Watson's role last year helped the Cardinals reach this year's heights.
Looking for revenge
Both Chisholm and Watson have grudges to hold tonight against Eastern Michigan after the Eagles' 57-53 win Jan. 23 in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Chisholm seeks redemption after a crucial blunder late in the game. The Cardinals had narrowed the Eagles' lead to 55-53 with 16 seconds left, as Chisholm took the ball up the court looking to run a play to send the game into overtime, perhaps too quickly for his feet to catch up. Chisholm looked on hopelessly as the ball bounced off his leg and out of bounds right after he brought the ball past half-court.
Taylor said he's seen an improvement in his guard's overall confidence and ball handling since that day.
"Our ball handling has definitely been better for us in recent times, and it does start with our point guards," he said. "We're just going to have to be smart and efficient with our offense and do a much better job of taking care of the basketball and having good footwork on the perimeter so that we're not turning the ball over and giving up possessions."
Watson's revenge may come from trying to play a little too hard in front of several friends and family members at Eastern Michigan.
Watson had as many turnovers (five) as points against the Eagles in 29 minutes of action.
"I get to play some old friends," Watson said. "And hopefully get some sort of revenge or something for them beating us at their place."