Friday, July 1, 2011

In complete control: Former Jayhawk Brett Ballard has high hopes for future of Baker hoops

Baker head men's basketball coach Brett Ballard huddles up with players during his basketball camp Thursday, June 30, 2011 at Baker University. Kansas players Thomas Robinson, at left in gray shirt, and Ben McLemore, at left in blue shirt, were counselors at the camp.

Baker head men's basketball coach Brett Ballard huddles up with players during his basketball camp Thursday, June 30, 2011 at Baker University. Kansas players Thomas Robinson, at left in gray shirt, and Ben McLemore, at left in blue shirt, were counselors at the camp.



Kansas basketball players Thomas Robinson, left, and Ben McLemore share a laugh during a break at the Brett Ballard Basketball Camp in Baldwin on Thursday, June 30, 2011.


2011 Baker basketball camp

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Baker head men's basketball coach Brett Ballard hosted his second annual camp with the help of a couple Kansas players.

Thomas Robinson helps out at Baker camp

Kansas men's basketball player Thomas Robinson worked as a counselor for Brett Ballard's Baker camp Thursday, June 30, 2011.

It’s only been 15 months since he was introduced as the head men’s basketball coach at Baker University, but he carries himself like a man who’s been running the Wildcats’ program for 15 years.

Watching Brett Ballard rev through his second-annual BU summer camp — which wrapped up Thursday with the help of current Jayhawks Thomas Robinson and Ben McLemore — gives a great impression of just how comfortable the former Kansas University player and assistant coach is in his new gymnasium.

“I’m excited about where I’m at,” said Ballard, 31, now in his second year at Baker. “We’ve gotta get a lot better on the basketball court and I definitely think we’re going to be a lot better next year. But as far as the overall feeling, I’m really, really enjoying it.”

Year No. 1, in which the Wildcats finished 12-18 overall, including an 8-12 mark in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, brought a variety of highs and lows for Ballard, who spent seven years on Bill Self’s staff at Kansas. In his first game as a head coach, the Wildcats won on a wild, last-second shot that went viral on the Internet and still is being talked about to this day. At the same time, there were several games — wins and losses — from which Ballard left the gym frustrated about the performance. But Ballard kept a level head, something that really impressed BU athletic director Theresa Yetmar.

“Brett definitely settled in exactly how I expected he would,” Yetmar said. “He was very professional, always very prepared and our guys really responded to the intensity and energy he brought to the program. We needed that.”

Every once in a while, that energy came out of nowhere.

“I think a lot of people were surprised by how he was on the bench during games,” Yetmar said. “He paces a little and he stomps his foot from time to time. He’d always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy at KU, so to see him get into it that much was very entertaining.”

According to Ballard, it also was very genuine.

“I’m a competitive guy,” he said. “I’m not necessarily real boisterous, but I believe in playing hard and getting after it and I love the way our guys responded to that.”

Ballard, who played for former KU coach Roy Williams from 2001-02, said he realized, last season, that his coaching style was more in line with Self’s.

“I love the way coach Self is,” he said. “He’ll get on those guys hard and the second it’s over, it’s over. That’s how I try to be. I know our players don’t always love me because I’m on ’em in practice. But at the same time we joke around and have a lot of fun.”

Added Robinson, who played under Ballard for one year at Kansas: “He’s definitely the same guy. B-Ballard was always respected and his word was always just as strong as coach Self’s. I see him bringing the same stuff over here. I know they had a good season and I think he’s going to do a great job here.”

Ballard said the Wildcats showed improvement throughout the 2010-11 season, and he appreciated how much they welcomed him into the program right away. But he’s not going to be completely content until BU is winning on a regular basis.

“Our seniors were great last year,” Ballard said. “But we’ve gotta get a little more talent and we’ve gotta be committed to the mind-set that it takes to win. Losing is a habit and so is winning. We have to believe that we’re going to win and I think we’ll take another step in that direction this year. Until you do it consistently, you gotta preach it every day and continue to work towards it.”

Work was never something Ballard shied away from. Whether it was as a 160-pound senior at Hutchinson High, a 37-minutes-per-game star at Hutch Community College or a grind-it-out walk-on at Kansas, he always put hard work above everything else. Though he’s talked openly about what a difficult decision it was to leave KU, Ballard, in one year, has made himself the face of a Baker basketball program on the rise.

“He definitely bleeds orange now,” Yetmar said. “And we’ve been excited about how his whole family has embraced the BU community.”

Robinson a workout monster

Since the day he decided to return to Kansas for his junior season, KU forward Thomas Robinson has focused on one thing and one thing alone.

“I just work out, work out, work out. That’s it,” said Robinson between sessions of Brett Ballard’s Baker University summer basketball camp on Thursday. “All I’m focused on right now is preparing for my junior year and trying to help my team. I’ll be able to show more of my game with more reps and more minutes on the floor.”

Asked what challenges that might bring, Robinson was honest: “I don’t know yet. I don’t know what’s on the other teams’ scouting reports, but I’m pretty sure I’m on it. I’m gonna do all I can do this summer to make sure it doesn’t matter what other teams do.”

McLemore enjoys new home

Freshman Ben McLemore, of St. Louis, has been in town for about a month. So far, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard has settled in nicely to his new surroundings and has had no problem calling Lawrence home.

“Every time I wake up, I think to myself, ‘I’m finally here. I’m finally in college and at KU,’” McLemore said.

Though workouts, classes and camps have kept him busy, McLemore said he was adjusting well to life in Lawrence and thanked his teammates for helping make the transition easy.

“They all are treating me like a brother,” he said. “I’m new to this family and they’re all giving me a lot of advice and stuff like that. We’ve got a little bond going. I just work out a lot and I’m taking care of my school work, too. Right now, I’m just trying to make sure I’m ready to bring my A-game.”


Scott MacWilliams 6 years, 3 months ago

First on the firing line! WOO HOO!!

Looks like Brett B. is in the right place for him, and it sounds like he's going to do great there at Baker. Kudos to the Baker AD for seeing his potential and giving him a shot at a HC position.

Sounds like TRob is a GREAT influence on BMac, and it looks like they're both going to have good seasons. I'm looking forward to this team creating some great chemistry and exciting hoops this fall!!


Clarence Haynes 6 years, 3 months ago

TRob: Great work ethic! Great example for BMac and all of his team mates!

Tony Bandle 6 years, 3 months ago

Just got back from a week in Las Vegas on vacation....had a great time but will be going back to work Tuesday.[ indicates how well the gambling went :( ]

Outside of being a Jayhawk, things every American ought to do once in their lives: 1] See the Fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. 2] Watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in D.C. 3] Run the bases on The Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. 4] Hike into the Grand Canyon, even just a little way. 5] Visit the Volcano Park in the Big Island of Hawaii. 6] Go to the top of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, NY 7] Enjoy a sunset at Key West, Florida. 8] Sip wine at a winery in St.Helena, Napa Valley, CA. 9] Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. 10] Take a hot air balloon ride at dawn in Sedona, Arizona. 11] Eat Lobster and Cranberries at Bar Harbor, Maine. 12] Spend time at a dog sled camp on Henderson Glacier in Juneau, Alaska. 13] Dine at an authentic Hawaiian Laua [hint..skip the poi!!] 14] Walk the white sand beaches in Destin, Florida. 15] Ride a San Francisco Trolley Car. 16] Attend ballgames at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. 17] Walk under the Eero Saarinen's Gatway to the West Arch in St.Louis, MO. 18] Visit a National Park [watch out for bears!!] 19] Trek to the Taos, Pueblo in New Mexico. 20] Everytime you pass an American Flag, be thankful that this is your country. For all the problems, faults, sadness and failings, this is still the greatest country on earth and I would not want to be anything else than an American.

Happy Fourth of July and God Bless You All

P.S, Yes, even Missouri Tigers!!

Chris Shaw 6 years, 3 months ago

1) Check 2) Check 3) Check 4) Check 5) Check 6) Check 7) Check 8) On the list of things to do 9) Check 10) Taking a hot air balloon ride in general-Been to Sedona just not for that reason. 11) On list of things to do 12) Going next summer 13) Check 14) Check 15) Check 16) Check 17) Check 18) Check 19) Never heard of it, but I'll check it out. 20) I'll make sure I'm more observant to the greatest flag in the world.

Oakville: Next time you're in Vegas play these numbers in Roulette..........11, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 26, 31, 35, 36. Then, depending on the number board, make a big bet and play 1-18, red, black, or 19-36. Go with your gut and I'm pretty sure you'll win some money.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 3 months ago

kushaw regarding

8.......Please don't miss The Castello di Amarosa a few miles north of St. Helena. Google it up but it is essentially an exact copy of a medieval Tuscan castle...unfriggin' believable!!!

11.....You'll love the whole area. Even a street vendor's lobster stick is ten times better than any lobster you'll get in any fine restaurant not located in Maine!!

12....Just the helicopter ride to get there is worth the price of admission!! If you're not impressed, I will pay for your excursion!!

19.....It's about a three mile drive north of Taos,New Mexico. The neatest thing is that in spite of being hundreds of years old...people still live there!!!!!


nuleafjhawk 6 years, 3 months ago

Oak - even Missouri Tigers ?? You must be feeling especially blessed today my friend - good for you !!!

Mike Kendall 6 years, 3 months ago


So darn glad I have your posts to read. I could read them and not ever get bored. Happy 4th to Jayhawk Nation. Enjoy the parades and be thankful for our men in uniform. Rock chalk Jayhawk----forever!!!!

Mike Kendall 6 years, 3 months ago

Excuse me-- "Be thankful for our men & women in uniform." Sorry ladies!

Martin Rosenblum 6 years, 3 months ago

A week in Vegas? I'm usually burned out after the third day! Well, burned out and tapped out actually.

KGphoto 6 years, 3 months ago

Not sure about #2. Kinda boring. The best part for us was watching the utter embarrassment of the woman who's kids stroller fell off a stair and dumped toys all over the place. Including plastic balls that rolled right in front of the "action".

As you know it's totally silent during the whole thing. Nobody dared even breathing too loudly. But you would have thought there was a car wreck right in front of us. It seemed to go on forever. My dad and I had to excuse ourselves or we would have made a scene with our laughing.

And I will add:

21-Watch the sunrise from the Boulder Field at Long's Peak after 3-4 hours of hiking in the moonlight. Then cross through the Keyhole to the western slope and hike along the pink and orange morning mountains. Finish off standing atop the Monarch of the North and take in ALL of the Rocky Mountains while the clouds roll by below.

REHawk 6 years, 3 months ago

Does BenMac have the speed or quickness of TT/EJ? If so, at his height he should give defenders absolute fits. Good to see him blending into the Jayhawk landscape. It is now very obvious that TRob is pushing himself to hoops limits this summer. A terrific role model for newcomers. I envision Naadir and Ben developing quickly to give us solid minutes after the Christmas break. Young, too. Let's hope at least one of the other recruits or Wesley steps up to fit a necessary groove occasionally. Per Sasha and Darnell, there always is an early surprise on the roster. Freshman season, Michigan State bounced those twins around like bowling balls before the conference season, but they managed to spend enough rewarding developmental minutes to help win a league title; returned the next two years as focused hardworking fastlearning dynamos. Considering the experience of our five starters, I look to see some genuine surprises pop off this incoming roster before the NCAA Tournament. Recruits will have the comfort and luxury of a bit of time to develop and catch up to the speed of the college game without the pressures of starting. Other than the 5, the other 4 positions look to be rock solid with experienced returning competitors.

lee3022 6 years, 3 months ago

Good report all around. T-Rob refers to Brett as B-Ballard but that is ignoring the natural tag of 'B-Ball'!

mjlindsm 6 years, 3 months ago

Ugh, did they have to mention Ballard is 31? That makes me feel old. It feels like not long ago that he made that huge lay-up against Nebraska to get us within one possession so that K-Freeze could hit that toe-on-the-line-two-that-the-refs-called-a-three that led to our win. Yay for actually winning from a bad call for once!

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