Ball State women’s basketball participated in Ball State Basketball Media Day on Tuesday. Now in their sixth year under head coach Brady Sallee, the Cardinals are coming off their fifth straight postseason appearance as they head into the 2017-18 season.
Ball State will see four seniors on its roster this season, three of whom will be returning from last year. Destiny Washington, Frannie Frazier and Moriah Monaco have implemented some changes as the returning senior leaders.
“We had our team meeting with just our team and no coaches around and we listed about five or six rules that we came up with as a team,” Monaco said. “Some of them were like being 15 minutes early to things or trying to do necessary work, like put in time at the gym and stuff like that.”
Opposed to his approach on previous seasons, Sallee is going into this season with no preconceived notions. Under the three returning seniors, a little change could be just what this new team needs, having such a versatile set of members.
“We just really want to be more as one as a team,” Monaco said. “We really implemented that this summer and worked on our team bonding off the floor, as well as on the floor too.”
The addition of transfer Keri Kleist rounds out the four seniors Ball State will see on this season’s roster. Kleist, a 6-foot-3-inch graduate transfer in her sixth year from CSU Bakersfield, is the only player on the roster taller than 6 feet who is eligible to play, even if it’s just for one season.
“It just gives us some size when we need it,” Sallee said. “She has the ability to shoot the three, which is probably her biggest strength right now. She’ll be able to give us that size when we need it.”
Replacing last season’s leading scorer and rebounder in the form of a 6-foot-5-inch Renee Bennett, Ball State is going to want to set Kleist up by making her the one dominant force in the middle, with four players around her outside. Although she’s new to what the Cardinals are doing on the court, Kleist’s athleticism is something that could fill a huge role for this team.
SICK OF THE WNIT
Last season marked the team’s fifth straight appearance in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and finished with a 21-10 record, marking only the sixth time in program history Ball State has had 20+ wins in a season.
The team has one goal in mind this season and that’s competing in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s not easy, but if it was easy, everyone would do it,” Sallee said. “Our sights are set solely on playing in the NCAA tournament and I think you said it exactly the way I feel about it. Sick is a good word.”
Although not taking the opportunity of playing in the WNIT for granted, Sallee knows he’s had teams in the past that were talented enough to compete in the NCAA tournament. If the team is going to give the big dance a shot, it needs to be this year, while it has eight experienced upperclassmen.
“I’ve had teams that have been clearly good enough to be there the whole five years I’ve been here and we’ve had our chances,” Sallee said. “We have to break through and that’s going to be a big step for our program, but it’s one that we’re capable of and I think it excites these ladies.”
Ball State has welcomed four true freshmen to the court this season. Sallee has a good problem to have on his hands, as the quartet came in ready to put in the work needed for a successful season.
“It’s been a fun group,” Sallee said. “There’s a lot of personality in there. From the get-go, these freshmen have not been worried about working hard. This group just kind of came in ready to go to work. They were here for a reason and we’ve for two or three of them that believe that they’re going to play, and that belief can sometimes be half the battle.”
Guards Katie Helgason and Maliah Howard-Bass and forwards Sara Price and Oshlynn Brown have shown the physical talent Sallee likes to see on the court. However, Sallee is looking for a little more from his freshmen.
“They’ve shown their talent and now it’s time for the knowledge of what we’re doing to catch up with them a little bit and that will really be the determining factor in how much they play, with just their ability to function and do everything,” Sallee said.
RECRUIT AND BUILD
These are two words Sallee goes by in the offseason. Sallee likes to challenge his team when it comes to its schedule in preparation for the postseason.
“One thing that’s always important for a team in the MAC is to make sure that you play some people that are going to look like teams you’ll play in the postseason, so when you get to the postseason, you’re not wowed by the size or athleticism,” Sallee said.
Ball State will travel to Vanderbilt this season, while also facing a pair of in-state foes in Butler and Purdue. The team will officially start its season when they tip-off at 1 p.m. Nov. 11 at Cleveland State.
Contact Kara Biernat with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @karabiernat.