Ball State Basketball: Season Preview

Ball State enters the third year of the Whitford era with guarded optimism.

Ball State and Head Coach James Whitford begin the 2015-16 basketball campaign on Friday when they travel to Bradley. This year, the third with Whitford at the helm, is the first in recent memory that Cardinal fans can feel excited about. That optimism, thanks to the results of the past 15 years, remains guarded for the time being.

The Cardinals welcome back the majority of the roster from a 7-22 season a year ago, and have limited turnover for the first time in several seasons. Ball State lost but two players from a season ago in the now graduated Matt Kamieneicki and Zavier Turner, who transferred out of the program.

Back to the fold is a mix of talented youth, rugged veterans and fresh faces that will hopefully mix into a solid season for the Cardinals. A season that was set in motion over the summer when the team was able to participate in a tournament in the Bahamas.

In the youth department, Ball State welcomes back its top two scorers in SG Jeremie Tyler and SF Sean Sellers. Tyler, who participated in only 9 games before losing his academic eligibility, scored 12 points along with 3.8 rebounds and 12 steals. Sellers, a 6-6 SF, added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame and hopes to expand on his own 12 points a game with the ability to put the ball on the floor and also post up on occasion.

In addition to Sellers and Tyler, the Cardinals boast a strong amount of talent in the back court.

At guard, the Cardinals return the capable hands of Senior combo guard Jeremiah Davis. Although he slumped for much of the season last year, Davis is a capable shooter who can also handle the point and get into the lane where his strength helps him get to the line. Also back in the mix is 6-3 SG Francis Kiapway, who is a solid shooting threat that is also a solid defender. At PG, the Cardinals welcome JUCO transfer Naiel Smith, a 6-4 true pass-first PG, who will not score a ton, but will manage the game and get everyone else involved. Smith is also a solid defender who plays the passing lanes well and creates havoc with steals and tips.

Most importantly in the mix of backcourt players is the eligibility of transfer Ryan Weber. The 6-6 Weber, who transferred in after averaging double figures his sophomore year at Youngstown State, is a matchup problem. He is bigger than most Mid-American Conference guards at 6-6 230 and can muscle into the paint and post up against them. Against forwards, Weber is quick enough to beat them off of the dribble and is a solid three-point shooting threat.

Returning in the front court are a pair of veterans who will be joined by a trio of newcomers to help bolster a thin front line. Back are undersized, but rugged PFs Franko House and Bo Calhoun. House, at 6-6 247, is a bulldozer in the lane. He has increased his scoring (10.3 ppg) and has gotten steadily better in his first two seasons in the program. Not a prolific rebounder (5.5 rpg), look for House to add those figures this season with more help in the height category. Calhoun, who had his best season during his career at Ball State a season ago (9.6 ppg, 6 rpg), adds defensive skill and toughness at 6-6 245. Often playing out of position and being undersized, Calhoun has held his own on the boards and is able to scramble for garbage buckets and is also a capable outside shooter.

Joining them up front is 5th year transfer Nate Wells and freshmen Trey Moses and Tahjai Teague. Wells, who spent 4 years playing at Bradley, is a 7-1 C who put up modest numbers in the Missouri Valley Conference, but came on strong during the second half of last season. Wells will be counted on to be a defensive presence who can score effectively and also pass well out of the post. Moses, a 6-9 245 PF/C, comes to Ball State after posting solid numbers as a prep. Noted as a strong rebounder and shot blocker, Moses showed the ability to knock down jumpers and post up in his playing time this summer. Teague, who is out of action for the first month or so of the season due to a foot injury, is a 6-9 185 wispy thin, but athletic post, who can also step out and knock down the three. Teague is by far the most athletic of the front court players the Cardinals offer, but his playing time will depend on his ability to bounce back from injury.

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