Transfer players key for Ball State men's basketball
It all started with a phone call.
Ball State men's basketball coach James Whitford called Ryan Weber and Tayler Persons within minutes of being released from their scholarships.
“Transfers have a much better sense, to me, what is important,” Whitford said. “When you are transferring it is not about the bells and whistles, it’s about are you in a program that cares about you as person.”
Ryan Weber at Youngstown State 2012-14 (2 seasons):
Points per game: 7.2
3-point percentage: 37.3
Rebounds per game: 1
Ryan Weber at Ball State 2014-15:
Points per game: 10.4
3-point percentage: 40
Rebounds per game: 4.4
Tayler Persons at Northern Kentucky 2014-15:
Points per game: 13.1
3-point percentage: 18.5
Tayler Persons at Ball State 2015-16 - 7 games:
Points per game: 15.7
3-point percentage: 47.4
Before moving to Muncie in 2014, Weber played two seasons at Youngstown State, averaging 7.2 points and one rebound per game over 33 minutes of play.
“Coach Whitford and his staff were on me every day until I made my decision,” Weber said. “I really felt at home when I came here.”
Shortly after Weber transferred into Ball State, Whitford had his eyes set on Persons, who was named Atlantic-Sun Conference freshman of the year as Northern Kentucky's point guard in 2014.
Like Weber, Persons spoke about the perseverance of the coaching staff wanting to help him become a better player if he chose Ball State.
“[Whitford] sold me on some points I knew I had to get better at for me to take my game to the next level,” Persons said. “I love that he is dedicated to me, I really appreciate that.”
NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season off as part of their transition to a new program.
“It is hard, but it is manageable,” Whitford said. “They know it is part of the deal when they transfer and if you take the right approach it’s not only not hard, but it can be real positive.”
Though transfers can still practice during that off year, sitting on the bench made Persons think — what would life be like after he was done playing basketball?
“Having a whole year to sit and realize what I was going to do when basketball was done was tough, and I started to get tired,” Persons said. “The process was getting hard because I wasn’t playing, but it turned out great for me.”
What turned out great during the years off for Persons and Weber has also been great for the program. Ball State won a combined 12 games in the 2013-14 and 14-15 seasons, but last year — Weber's first on the court — the Cardinals won 21 games. With Persons this year, Ball State has already won four more.
And there's another transfer biding his time in the mandatory off-year — junior guard Jontrell Walker, who averaged 13.1 points per game over two seasons at Incarnate Word.
“The biggest thing a redshirt transfer has to understand is how important it is taking advantage of the year off,” Whitford said. “When the games come, you don’t want to have any regrets that you didn’t take advantage of your development year.”
Coming from Youngstown State, Weber has averaged three more rebounds per game for the Cardinals, and from Northern Kentucky, Persons has made more 3-pointers this season (11), than he did his whole freshman season (10).
“There are really two advantages of getting a transfer. One, they’ve proven they can play in college, and two, they have that year of development and you get them when they are older,” Whitford said.
Whitford has gotten his transfer players to believe that their development during that off year is not only crucial for them but also to the team’s success.