Tayler Persons, redshirt senior guard for Ball State Men’s Basketball, said leadership is the most underrated thing in sports. The Cardinals have two players who went to extreme measures last summer to enhance their leadership qualities.
Along with Persons, senior center Trey Moses is one of them.
Moses played eight games in 10 days in New Zealand and said he had to jump at the chance to experience playing overseas.
“It shows that we want this bad,” Moses said. “We haven’t hung a banner. We haven’t had much postseason success. We’re taking advantage of any little opportunities or bigger opportunities that we get to hang those banners.”
More than anything, Moses said he learned to take blame for his actions. His team lost one game during his trip. In that game, Moses went scoreless in the first half with three fouls. He adjusted and ended with 16 points, but he said his performance was not equivalent to that of a leader.
“I feel like I was a leader of that team,” Moses said. “I can’t be a player with zero points and three fouls in the first half and completely switch. I had to take accountability in film the next day with our team and just be like, ‘I messed up, and I got to be better for our team.’”
Persons, who won a gold medal representing Team USA at the International University Sports Federation America Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in July, said setting the right example as seniors will be important. He lost weight over the summer and said he’s in the “best shape I’ve ever been in times ten.”
“When you start up there with your seniors, and you’re going that hard, it sets a precedent for the rest of the team,” Persons said. “They get to look up and be like, ‘If we don’t work as hard as them, we’re not going to play.’ We’re accomplished players, and we’re still working harder than we ever have. That’s good for the younger guys to get this culture in the right direction.”
Persons has started every game in his Ball State career since he became eligible after transferring from Northern Kentucky. Moses has been a consistent starter since his sophomore year. Head coach James Whitford said the experiences both in college and overseas are a big reason why these seniors are leaders on the team now.
“Experience is a great teacher,” Whitford said. “It just shows you they care, and they want to invest in their offseason to try to get better about working out and playing all summer long. That’s the kind of leadership you want to have.”
In New Zealand, Moses gained confidence, something he said he has struggled with in the past. His confidence has shown through the first seven games of the 2018-19 season.
Moses was nursing a right knee injury to begin the year, and his time on the court was limited in the first two games. He scored a total of five points and pulled down just five rebounds. Once his playing time increased and he was reinserted into the starting lineup, the results improved. In the last five games, Moses has averaged 8.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. In the Cardinals’ last matchup against Tiffin, he dropped 14 points and pulled down a career-high 17 boards.
“I’ve had confidence, but it’s been one of those things where it’s been up and down for me,” Moses said. “I’m trying to sustain full confidence throughout the whole year knowing that you’re going to have bad games, bad plays, bad moments during the year. It’s all about the next play mentality.”
The responsibility, work ethic and confidence shown by Moses and Persons have risen the expectations for Whitford. He said his team is more athletic than previous years, and it will be a difficult one to play against.
“[Fans] can look at us and say, ‘Those guys compete like crazy,’” Whitford said. “If somebody’s going to come in here and beat us, we know they played a heck of a game because we’re leaving it all out there and we’ve got a talented group, so you’re going to have to earn it.”
Moses said he’s up for the challenge, and he knows his job is more than excelling on the court.
“We’re all on one team,” Moses said. “At the end of the day, it’s about a bigger role than just stats.”