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02.14.11 | Men's Basketball

MBB team making strides

2.14.11 | Men's Basketball

Wildcats and coach Ballard making big strides on the basketball court

Men's Basketball Team

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – The record says 11-15, but the improvement on the floor says so much more as Baker University’s men’s team continues to play hard-nosed basketball.

“Being picked 10th in the Heart of America Athletic Conference at the start of the season was great motivation for us,” first-year Wildcat head basketball coach Brett Ballard said. “We used that as a rallying cry early on in practice. These guys have worked hard in practice, and now we’re starting to consistently see the results carry over into our games.”

On Saturday, Baker won its fourth consecutive home contest with a 24-point blowout victory over Culver-Stockton. It was the Wildcats’ largest win over a conference opponent since February 2008 when Baker defeated Missouri Valley College by a 25-point margin.

“We’re really starting to click on both ends of the court,” Ballard added. “It wasn’t easy for these guys at the beginning of the season trying to adjust to a new offensive style. I thought our defense was already pretty good aside from a few breakdowns late in games, but now we’re really starting to put it all together.”

Senior Jaris Wommack continues to steady the Baker offense. Wommack is currently averaging 16.3 points and 1.7 steals per game. He currently ranks 27th nationally in scoring with 424 total points.

“Jaris has had a terrific year,” Ballard said. “He’s carried the load offensively a lot of nights. Andre (Strozier) and Austin (Bond) have been great all season acting as our second scorers, and I couldn’t be happier with the hard work Jack Shortell has put in this year.”

With a handful of injuries throughout the year, Baker has had some key reserve players fill in nicely.Coach Ballard

“Losing Sam Kenney was a major blow to us early,” Ballard said. “If we still had Sam, I think we’d probably be in a better position to win more games. Joe Wachter has really stepped up and played well, considering he is not a natural point guard. These guys have been fun to coach. It’s been a learning experience for me, but most importantly it’s nice to coach a group of unselfish guys who just want to win.”

Looking ahead, Baker is preparing to qualify for the HAAC tournament.  Baker (7-9 HAAC) sits in seventh place overall with four games remaining in the regular season.

“The top eight teams make the league playoffs,” Ballard noted. “I think if we continue to play the way we have, we should be in a good position to make a little bit of noise in the playoffs.”

As it stands now, Baker would be a No. 7 seed and travel to No. 2 William Jewell in the first round of the tournament. Baker could climb as high as a No. 5 seed with a second straight win over MidAmerica Nazarene on Thursday, Feb. 24.

“The guys will be ready to go,” Ballard said. “I can assure you that.”

The Wildcats return to the hardwood on Thursday evening when they travel to William Jewell College for a 7:30 p.m., tipoff in Liberty, Mo.­­

Listen to coach Ballard's podcast here

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