Balardo, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Notre Dame Prep (Mass.), signed a letter of intent with South Florida on Sunday. The commitment was the culmination of a torrid spring AAU run and a whirlwind recruitment for the native of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
"He signed his letter of intent yesterday afternoon," said Notre Dame Prep coach Ryan Hurd on Monday. "He visited the school, liked it, and signed his letter."
Balardo arrived at Notre Dame from Monteverde Academy (Fla.) this fall as a highly-touted shooter, with programs like Kansas and Kansas St. keeping tabs. A nasty ankle injury knocked him out for the fall evaluation period and set him back in the team's rotation.
"For the first week and a half of school he was probably our premier wing player," said Hurd. "Then the ankle injury happened, and he fell behind other guys in the rotation."
It took Balardo the better part of the year to get healthy and fully embrace his role as shooting guard. In early February at the National Prep School Invitational, he shot 6-of-7 from the 3-point line against the Patterson School. Still, his recruitment stalled, right up until the Kingwood Invitational last month, when a breakthrough performance with his team, the Miami Tropics, announced Balardo as a legit high-major talent.
"It's been unbelievable," said Hurd of the recruiting pickup. "There had to have been 30 or 40 schools that called on him after the tournament.
"I'm really proud of him. It's really his patience being rewarded. There was a lot of (indecision), but he knew what level he belonged at."