MEN'S BASKETBALL: Injury-free Bond improving in sophomore season

Teammates praise Bond for toughness and grit

Preseason All-Mid-American Conference Selection Jarrod Jones received his fourth MAC West Division Player of the Week award Monday for his performance in Ball State's recent wins over Florida A&M and Western Michigan.

While Jones brings in most of the accolades, another Cardinal has quietly made his presence felt on the court as well.

Against Western Michigan on Saturday, sophomore forward Chris Bond played his best game of the season scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

Bond used his athleticism and quickness to shred the Broncos defense for countless buckets in the lane and around the basket.

"He's sneaky," Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins said. "You can help off of him, but then he'll move to an open area. He's not going to just stand still. He's a smart player. He'll move to the basket or he'll move to an open area on the floor and all of the sudden the ball's in his hands, and he's shooting a little 5-footer or he pulls down a big offensive rebound and puts it back in. He's a nice player."

As Western Michigan got reintroduced to Bond on Saturday, the 6'3 tweener has a chance to improve on his stellar start to conference play Tuesday. Ball State travels to Toledo for a 7 p.m. game against the 8-7 Rockets.

Despite not putting up as gaudy of numbers, 25 points and 12 rebounds to Jones' 35 points and 19 rebounds over the past two games, Bond's play has been arguably more significant.

The reason Ball State fans have waited this long to see Bond's potential is an injury he sustained against Indiana State on Nov. 18. Bond fell on his hip and that game, but played through it. It plagued him over the next couple games during which Bond said he fell on the same hip again.

"He never complained about that injury and how much it actually bothered him," Ball State coach Billy Taylor said. "But he certainly didn't have the explosion and athleticism for about a two-and-a-half week period where he really struggled. Now he's got that athleticism back and it's nice to see that explosion."

That explosion was on display Saturday when Bond used the MAC logo in Worthen Areana as his launchpad. He caught a pass from Randy Davis in transition for a vicious right-handed dunk. Bond is clearly regaining his form and people are taking notice.

As a man of few words, the greatest compliment given to Bond can be seen through the words of his teammates.

"He gets the tough assignment and doesn't complain about it," senior point guard Randy Davis said. "He's really kind of key for us because he's 6'3, really long and can really discourage someone from shooting it. With his length he can get up and contest it. Or he's quick enough to guard you when he puts it on the ground. I think that [his defense] is one of the strengths he has."

"I really think Tyrae Robinson coming back getting us into transition--the game speed is a lot faster," Jones said. "I think that's the game he's used to playing. Getting up and down and getting more involved in the offense. I definitely see him being more aggressive out there."

Robinson's influence can't be underestimated. Bond said the two played basketball together since they were five-years-old. That included four years on varsity together at Bowman Academy before coming to Ball State.

"I just try and find him in transition because that's where he can really do damage," Robinson said. "Any time we are running the court I look for him because he's really fast and sneaky."

Sneaky is a word which comes up over and over again with Bond. Robinson said teams don't pay enough attention to him on the court and he's able to come off down screens and get to his spots in the lane.

"Chris is a great cutter," Robinson said. "Coach Taylor put him in a great situation to succeed and he's curling so we look for him to get inside the paint. Teams lose him a lot. You blink your eye on the court and he's gone."

Bond isn't someone who complicates things. He always stays within himself on and off the court and flourishes because of it.

"I just try to read the defense and see what they give me to get easy buckets," Bond said. "I'm back to 100 percent now, so I'm just going to try and go out there and play my game."