Ball State’s junior forward Franko House attempts to push past Pepperdine’s defense on Dec. 12 in Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO GRACE RAMEY
3 takeaways from men’s basketball media day
With basketball season less than three weeks away, Ball State prepares to continue its momentum coming off its best season in four years.
the 2015-16 season, the Cardinals won 21 games under three-year head coach James Whitford. With six of the Cardinals’ eight top scorers returning, they look to pick up where they left off in March.
Here are 3 takeaways from the Oct. 25 press conference.
1. Experience is key for the Cardinals
Whitford said the amount of returning and experienced players is one factor that will benefit the Cardinals this season.
“It feels good to have that experience,” Whitford said. "I feel like practices are competitive no matter how we split the teams up.”
Senior forward Franko House and senior guard/forward Ryan Weber are expected to lead the Cardinals from an experience standpoint. House averaged 12.2 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game last season.
House said the experience he and his teammates gained last season will help them going in to this season.
"Even though we went into the tournament as a five seed, we got to be able to come into every game knowing with our conference you can win any game, it doesn't matter," House said. "It's anybody's given night, whoever's playing the hardest is probably going to win."
House has seen steady improvement on the statistics sheet since his first year at Ball State. He has doubled his points per game and conditioned his body. Whitford said he weighs nearly 25 pounds less than he did in his freshman season.
Weber, a fifth-year senior who redshirted his freshman year, averaged 10.5 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game last season. Weber said in the offseason he’s been working on his offense off the dribble and creating opportunities for his teammates.
“If you looked at me last year, I was kind of just a guy that helped myself out," Weber said. "I've been trying to work on things like defense and going off the bounce.”
The play of sophomore center Trey Moses is crucial for the Cardinals with the departure of forward and last year's top rebounder Bo Calhoun. In Moses’ freshman season he averaged 4.3 rebounds and 5.9 points per game.
“He’s continued on the same upward trend on where he was a year ago thus far,” Whitford said.
While Whitford said he does not have a set starting lineup yet, a number of returning players have all started in past games.
"I hope I’m never a coach where I know who that is a few weeks into the season," Whitford said. "I want the guys to understand what you get in the program is earned and not given.”
2. Exhibition game brings experience
The Cardinals' season opener is Nov. 11 against Saint Louis, but Whitford made the decision to schedule an exhibition game Nov. 3 against the University of Indianapolis. The Cardinals have not participated in an exhibition game since the 2013-14 season, beating Marian University 62-59.
Whitford said last season in the season opener against Bradley University was the first time the team had put in their game time roles. He felt the guys were at a disadvantage for not having a set rotation yet.
“I felt like it hurt us to not let those guys have a better sense coming into the game of where they stood and what their roles was going to look like,” Whitford said.
The change allows the players to get acclimated to a game-like atmosphere a little sooner in the season.
“To get situated a little earlier before the opening tip and for what a real game is going to look like,” Whitford said. "Get a little experience playing under the lights.”
3. Point guard play
With the Cardinals' presumably starting point guard senior Jeremie Tyler suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, the team will have to look for other players to fill the role.
Whitford said sophomore guard Tayler Persons has to be that force on the court. But filling Tyler's absence will come from a number of players.
"[Persons] has to be the one, like the quarterback on the court — calls the plays, gets guys organized," Whitford said. "But these guys, [House] and [Weber] are going to have to provide the leadership in the huddles and in the locker room, which is much more important.”
Persons, a redshirt sophomore, sat out last season as a transfer from Northern Kentucky University.
Whitford also expects to see junior guard Francis Kiapway tag team the guard position with Persons.
"He's a different type of point guard than [Persons] is," Whitford said. "He's not going to be able to create the shots for [Weber] or some other guys, but he really understands the game."
Last season, Kiapway averaged 8.6 points per game and 1.3 rebounds per game.
"I feel like both of those guys can handle that position and I think it's critical you have two that really know what they're doing,” Whitford said.
Be on the lookout for the Daily News' full season preview Nov. 9.