When Joseph Battle arrives at Appalachian State he will bring with him a history and expectation of winning. Battle will transfer to App State from Tulsa University, where he spent his freshman season as a member of the Golden Hurricane basketball team. He will sit out the 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules and be eligible the following year.
”I’m excited to come there and do what I’m supposed to do. Help the program grow, making it to the (NCAA) tournament, winning our conference, that’s the biggest thing,” Battle says. “I’m just ready for the new life at App State, I just can’t wait to get there.”
Battle will visit Appalachian May 9-11 to re-familiarize himself with the staff and campus, but there is plenty of history between Battle and the Mountaineer program.
”App State wanted me heavily out of high school; (Assistant) Coach (Jason) Allison was recruiting me and he came and watched me on the same day Tulsa came,” Battle recalls. “Tulsa offered me and I committed that day and, then, my high school coach told me that App State was going to offer the next day, but I never got to (the App State offer).
”My recruiter at Tulsa (Assistant Coach Michael Schwartz) left and got a new job at Tennessee and I had started to de-commit then, but the head coach (Frank Haith) called me and told me everything was going to be alright if I would just stick to it. That made me feel pretty good, but as the season went on I just didn’t feel comfortable and I didn’t feel like it was going to help me for the future and trying to get to the next level.
”So, I knew I wanted to transfer, and I just felt like I could come back closer to home and really help change the (App State) program.
”Once it got out that I would be transferring (Allison) hit me up and said that they were very interested in me, but said they had to look at their scholarships because I don’t think they were supposed to have any. Then, some things happened with some people on the team and some slots opened up, so they really started getting on me heavily.
”(Head) Coach (Jim) Fox called and offered me (April 28th) and I talked it over with my parents. I had already thought that might be the right move and a place for me, because Coach Allison had said if things don’t work out (at Tulsa) think about us. I guess it all just worked out.”
On discussing priorities with his parents Battle shares that there were several factors, not the least of which was geography.
”My parents just wanted what’s the best for me and what’s best for my future,” said Battle. “They want me to be somewhere I’ll be taken care of and develop, and where they have my best interests to succeed. All of that played a big part in it.
”Coming back closer to home was something we probably talked about the most.”
Battle is clear on the new opportunity App State is providing him and is ready to embrace it.
”When Coach Fox called me on Friday he said I could really be a big part of their rebuilding and a big part of their future. He wants me to come in right away, after I sit out my transfer year, and play, but it’s up to me,” says Battle. “I’ve got to go and put in the work, and he was also telling me to make sure I keep my grades up and finish out this semester strong.”
An 1,800-plus point scorer in high school, Battle believes his versatility will allow him to impact the Mountaineer offense in multiple ways.
”I can get to the rack, I can handle the ball, and I think the thing I really improved this year was my defense. Coming out of high school my defense wasn’t that great and I think I really improved that,” Battle says. “I really improved in understanding the game at a college level, reads and everything like that.
”This offseason I’ve really been working on my outside shot and get that more consistent. That’s really the biggest thing; with being able to get to the rack you’ve also got to be able to knock down the open jump shots, mid-range shots, and everything. So, I feel like that’s a big part of my game and the next step.
”I think I see myself more as a combo guard; I can play the one (point guard) and I can also play off the ball. Whichever one the coaches ask me to do is what I’ll focus on the most.”
Winning is in Battle’s blood from his days as a dual-sport star at Abbeville (SC) High School. In fact, Battle first quarterbacked the Panthers to the 2015 South Carolina 2A football championship, accounting for 189 total yards and six total touchdowns (three each running and throwing) in a 45-27 title-game win.
Then, exactly three months later, Battle led Abbeville to the 2A basketball title with 32 points in the 58-55 championship-game victory on his way to South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year honors.
Abbeville is a town of just over 5,000 and the high school has an enrollment of around 500, so the odds of multiple Panther graduates competing for the same out-of-state athletic program might normally be slim. However, in this instance Battle has big hometown shoes to fill as he arrives at App State.
”He and I played together,” Battle says of former Abbeville and App State football star Kennan Gilchrist, who will compete at rookie mini-camp with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
”My freshman year was his senior year, so we played varsity football and basketball together,” Battle continues. “We’re really good friends and we talk every now and then, and he’s always told me to keep my head on straight.
”He’s someone I really look up to.”
JOSEPH BATTLE HIGH SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS