In the eyes of James Whitford, success in player development comes in two parts: finding kids with the work ethic to be great and a coach willing to push and guide them there.

Ball State newest men’s basketball coach stressed the importance of both as he stood at the podium of his inaugural press conference on Wednesday.

After athletic director Bill Scholl officially announced him as the 19th coach in university history, Whitford said the main focus in his first couple weeks on the job would be finding assistants, recruiting and forming relationships with existing players.

“The talent pool we bring in and the staff we bring in are the two most important factors in us having success,” Whitford said. 

With that in mind, the former Arizona assistant said skill improvement, for the time being, was left up to the players.

Instead of working them out in the final week and a half permitted by the NCAA, Whitford said he would wait until the first summer session of school to start a skills program.

Individual player meetings are scheduled for this week to talk about expectations in the final four weeks of school to prepare for the program, Whitford said. 

“We invest our time in skill development year round because making these kids better is what it’s all about,” Whitford said. 

Former Cardinal Dennis Trammell (2003-05) made it clear he agreed after questioning Whitford about his plans for skill development in the press conference and talking to the Daily News afterwards. 

After playing for whom he called one of the best skill developers in the country in Tim Buckley, Trammell said player progression is the biggest thing holding Ball State back from success.

“When I went here, even the guys who didn’t play a whole lot became better players through practice and individual skill work,” Trammell said. “When you become a better player it ends up helping the team.”

Whitford’s already diligent approach in finding out the strengths and weaknesses of his team shows he’s committed to that idea. 

While he admitted he’s more familiar with players like senior guard Jesse Berry because of former recruiting ties at Xavier, Whitford has gone out of his way to get up to speed on others.

“In the last couple weeks I’ve really started paying attention,” Whitford said. “I started watching film on the guys before I got the job to get a better feel for who they were. You can learn a lot by looking at the numbers the type of shots they take and how they take them.”