Coach Ballard ready to enter first basketball season

Brooklyn Wiens

Brett Ballard has kept busy since being hired as the new Washburn men’s basketball head coach.

Ballard began his new role as head coach with both individual and full team workouts that started in the spring. With all five starters returning for the 2017-18 season, Ballard has a lot to work with. Starters include senior guards Randall Smith and Cameron Wiggins, and junior guards Javion Blake and David Salach and star senior forward Brady Skeens. Skeens is a two-time MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, first team All-MIAA selection and All-MIAA Defensive Team pick.

Also returning to the men’s team this year is senior guard Isaac Clark, sophomore guards Drew Pyle and Cooper Holmes and sophomore forward Clayton Holmberg. Ballard has also found new talent in his freshman players, such as forwards Will McKee and Aaron Simmons II, and guard Tyler Geiman, a two-time conference Player of the Year. Geiman averaged 22 points per game his senior year at Blue Valley High School and was a finalist for the Kansas City Area Player of the Year.

Holmes, Blake and junior guard Tyas Martin each talked about training regiments, working out in general and their experiences so far with Ballard as their new head coach.

“He focuses on the little stuff,” said Martin. “He really works with the bigs to sharpen their fundamentals.”

Holmes added that the coach is adamant about the team’s defense.

“Effort and toughness will be the foundation of what we do,” said Ballard. “We can’t allow the ball to get by us in dribble penetration. Offensively, it’s all about being in an attack mindset. Play inside out and attack the paint, but also looking for the bigs.”

On court discipline is not the only thing Ballard emphasizes in his coaching.

“Coach is pretty [consistent] with the times and social media,” Blake said. “He makes sure to let us know that one mistake online can cost the entire team.”

Holmes and Martin said that Ballard doesn’t just focus on excellence on the court. Their new head coach also encourages the team to study hard and be respectful to all of those around them.

“Everything that we do off the court and on the court correlates,” said Ballard. “How they conduct themselves off the court will impact their habits and behaviors on the court and vice versa. One of the biggest things is work ethic and how hard they work and time put into it. Being on time is important to us, so is showing a level of respect to teammates and people that we are meeting.”

Ballard is happy with his experiences coaching at Washburn so far and is optimistic about the team in the coming season.

“These guys sacrifice for the good of the team,” said Ballard. “The good thing is that these guys all seem to get along. We got a great group of guys – a humble group of guys who respect each other across the board.”