eBoss Road Show: Chris Balham

Wednesday evening didn't exactly offer that many choices for local ball, so the Road Show headed on over to Overland Park (KS) Shawnee Mission West to watch SM West take on defending Kansas class 6A state champion Olathe (KS) South.<br>

More than anything, it was a chance to get out and see SM West’s Chris Balham – who is also featured in today’s Kansas City Star. Balham, a 6-6 BF headed for Nebraska, is a kid that Kansas fans will become familiar with over the next four years so it doesn’t hurt to get an early scouting report.

BALHAM CONTINUES TO IMPROVE

Chris Balham has always passed the look test. Standing six-feet-six inches tall, the native of Paris, France weighs in at a chiseled 230 or so pounds and runs and jumps effortlessly. However, it was a different story once you put a basketball in his hands. As recently as a year ago he was clumsy, without many discernable skills -- other than the ability to run or jump -- and he was in possession of some of the worst hands that you will ever see.

To be fair, Balham is still a raw player who must continue to upgrade his skills but against Olathe South he continued to prove that he has improved significantly and is worthy of the scholarship that he was given by Nebraska.

The actual game between West and South doesn’t really deserve much talk. All too often games in the Sunflower League turn into slow, walk it up the court, low scoring affairs and this was no exception. With just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the score was 25-24 West before they ran away late for a 43-30 win.

On the other hand, the pace of the game allowed anybody watching to focus on Balham who was very impressive in a 13 point, 16 rebound (eight offensive), four block and three steal effort.

Basically, Balham is the Kansas City area prep scene’s version of Ben Wallace. On the defensive end he patrols the paint with attitude. Anybody attempting to get a shot off is more than likely going to see it sent the other direction thanks to his explosive leaping ability, long arms and timing. If shots do get up, more than likely Balham is going to clear out the lane thanks to his strength -- he already benches 300 pounds -- and grab any rebound he can get to.

Much like Wallace his game is still a bit limited on the offensive end. He’s most reliable within five feet of the basket and doesn’t have much touch on jumpers, but that is coming. He’s greatly improved at the free throw line (5-8 against South) and in his defense it is hard to tell how much he’s improved his offense because he rarely, if ever, sees the ball as a function of West’s offense.

It’s a shame that West didn’t try to get him the ball more often because Balham is very good at establishing position and gives himself plenty of room to get to the hoop if they’ll just get him the ball. On one occasion he did catch the ball 17 feet from the hoop, put the ball on the floor and make a quick and strong move to the basket for a hoop, something he would have never done last year.

Even though he doesn’t see the ball much, Balham works the glass tirelessly and gets himself plenty of putback opportunities. He’s still an unfinished product, but he’s clearly one of the top big men in the city and it says here that he could end up being a pleasant surprise at Nebraska before he finishes his career.

OTHER NOTES

Folks in the Kansas City metro area who have Time Warner Cable will get a chance to watch the game Friday evening as Metro Sports was on hand filming the West-South snoozer for their game of the week….Olathe South does feature a pair of seniors who have been having good seasons in 6-1 PG/WG Clint McFall and 6-2 WG Bryce Morris. McFall is the son of South head coach John McFall and is a tremendous outside shooter who has improved his ball-handling and decision making and could be a fit on the NAIA or possibly even D2 level but struggled Wednesday. Morris is an athletic lefty who is a pretty good jump shooter and dangerous scorer along the baseline. He was clearly intimidated by Balham’s presence on a few drives and had a rough night. However, Morris could be a low major division one basketball player – based on past performances of course – if he were to focus on hoops. He’s also a very talented wide receiver and word is he could commit to play football at Southern Illinois very soon.

There was one person in the crowd who is deserving of some mention, J.D. Christie. Christie is a 6-5 junior WF at Overland Park (KS) Shawnee Mission East and one of the top players in the city. Other than watching Balham, the opportunity to spend some time speaking with Christie was the best part of the evening. Not only is Christie a talented hooper who maximizes his ability, he is an outstanding kid away from the court who despite only being a junior in high school has an incredible perspective on the way the world works. It’s a shame more kids can’t take his approach.

  • Total games seen- 113
  • Total teams seen- 89
  • Total miles traveled- 8,237

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