MUNCIE, Ind. -- The Ball State men’s basketball team, under first-year head coach James Whitford, takes the floor Monday night for an exhibition game with the Marian Knights.
Tipoff against the NAIA program from Indianapolis is set for 7 p.m. at Worthen Arena, and admission to the game is free. An Internet radio broadcast will be available at ballstatesports.com.
Ball State features a core of veteran players, including five scholarship seniors, led by preseason all-conference big man Majok Majok. The former junior college transfer averaged a near double-double last year in his first season with the Cardinals.
Jesse Berry is the team’s top returning scorer after averaging 12.8 points last season. The senior guard from Lafayette, Ind., enters his senior campaign fifth on Ball State’s list for career 3-pointers. Fellow senior Chris Bond joins Majok and Berry as returning starters for the Cardinals.
The returning players have spent this year’s extended preseason practice session gelling with a group of four scholarship newcomers and working to learn Whitford’s system.
“I’ve been really impressed with our progress so far,” Whitford said. “I think we have a high character group, and I feel like we're working really hard, and we're getting better. I can see the progress every day. We're going to have a learning curve early, but if we continue to work at the pace we're working, there's going to be a day this season when I think we become a dangerous team.”
Monday night, the Cardinals will put their practice to the test against a quality Marian team that is receiving votes in the preseason NAIA Division II poll. The Knights are in their second year under former Butler and Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter and have already played one exhibition game, a 64-59 loss to Nova Southeastern.
Marian returns its top eight scorers from last year’s team that finished 17-13. Three of those eight averaged double figures with guard Nick Achille at 14.6 points per game, forward Jake Stafford at 13.2 and guard Jason Riley at 11.3.After taking on Marian, Ball State will have five days until its regular-season opener. The Cardinals begin the season on the road Saturday at in-state rival Indiana State and then return to Muncie for their home opener Nov. 12 against Taylor.