Balado pressed to win over team

Posted: November 9, 2017 at 2:20 a.m.

Mike Balado

Mike Balado

Connor Kern was at a friend's birthday party when his new basketball coach called.

It was spring break for Kern, a redshirt sophomore guard at Arkansas State University, and he was spending it in his hometown of Pickerington, Ohio.

ASU women’s schedule

Date;Opponent;Time

Nov. 10;at Evansville;7 p.m.

Nov. 13;Abilene Christian;7 p.m.

Nov. 16;at Eastern Michigan^;6 p.m.

Nov. 20;Howard^;7 p.m.

Nov. 22;at Indiana^;6 p.m.

Nov. 24;at South Florida^;TBA

Nov. 29;at Cleveland State;6 p.m.

Dec. 5;Tenn.-Martin;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 9;Henderson State;7 p.m.

Dec. 13;at Neb.-Omaha;7 p.m.

Dec. 16;at Florida Atlantic;6 p.m.

Dec. 19;at Wichita State;7 p.m.

Dec. 22;Culver-Stockton;7 p.m.

Dec. 29;La.-Monroe*;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 31;La.-Lafayette*;3:30 p.m.

Jan. 4;at Georgia Southern*;6:30 p.m.

Jan. 6;at Georgia State*;1:30 p.m.

Jan. 11;Texas State*;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 13;Texas-Arlington*;7 p.m.

Jan. 20;at UALR*;5 p.m.

Jan. 25;at Coastal Carolina*;6:30 p.m.

Jan. 27;at Appalachian State*;2:30 p.m.

Feb. 1;Georgia State*;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 3;Georgia Southern*;7 p.m.

Feb. 8;at Troy*;7:15 p.m.

Feb. 10;at South Alabama;3:05 p.m.

Feb. 17;UALR*;7 p.m.

Feb. 22;Appalachian State*;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 24;Coastal Carolina*;7 p.m.

March 1;at La.-Lafayette*;7:15 p.m.

March 3;at La.-Monroe*;2 p.m.

^Indiana Tip-Off Classic

*Sun Belt game

ASU 2017-18 men’s basketball roster

NO.;NAME;POS.;CL.;HT.;WT.

0;Ty Cockfield;G;Jr.;5-11;185

1;Rashad Lindsey;G;Sr.;5-11;165

2;Salif Boudie;F;So.;6-8;212

3;Marquis Eaton;G;Fr.;6-2;196

4;Tristin Walley;F;Jr.;6-7;211

5;C.J. Foster;G;R-Sr.;6-2;188

10;Grantham Gillard;G;Jr.;6-4;205

11;Christian Willis;G;So.;6-0;193

12;Connor Kern;G;R-So.;6-4;186

13;Morgan McKay;F;Fr.;6-8;215

15;Jake Scoggins;F;R-Fr.;6-9;211

23;Deven Simms;G;Sr.;6-4;204

25;Shaquillo Fritz;F;Jr.;6-8;202

32;Tamas Bruce;F;Sr.;6-7;193

33;Andrew Riley;G;Sr.;5-10;183

The cake already had been cut for his birthday buddy, and Kern stepped outside for what he thought might be a few minutes.

Kern's conversation with Mike Balado lasted an hour.

"It was a good conversation," said Kern, who is 6-4, 186 pounds and averaged 4.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game last season. "He talked about his expectations for the next season, how he's going to earn our respect and how he was looking forward to meeting all of us."

Balado had spent four seasons as an assistant at Louisville, and ASU Athletic Director Terry Mohajir hired him on March 20 -- exactly a week after Grant McCasland left ASU to become the head coach at North Texas.

The Red Wolves went 20-12 in one season under McCasland, who left for his home state to be closer to his father who had suffered a stroke a few years prior.

Balado and Mohajir had known each other since both worked at Florida Atlantic from 2005-2008 -- Balado as an assistant coach, Mohajir as an associate administrator in the athletic department. Balado said they became closer when he became an assistant at Florida International from 2012-2013, when the Panthers traveled to Jonesboro as part of their Sun Belt schedule.

Balado said Mohajir called him after McCasland left and asked whether he was interested.

"It was a great opportunity," Balado said. "We talked very quickly. Obviously, I wanted to move very quick. Keep the program rolling."

That included keeping the roster intact during the coaching transition, but most players had left campus for spring break. So he called each one individually.

"We did talk to each other [afterward]," Kern said. "We talked about how this is our new coach. Even if we didn't like him, we would have to learn to like him. Thankfully, we haven't had to fake it."

All but one of ASU's 11 underclassmen returned. Christian Davis (0.8 points, 2.8 minutes per game) did not return and is not currently on an NCAA Division I roster.

"I'm happy I was able to keep this group," Balado said. "They stuck around, and they've given me every ounce of perspiration."

ASU was picked seventh in the Sun Belt preseason poll, which Balado said wasn't surprising since the team lost its top scorer, Devin Carter (16.4 points per game), and guard Donte Thomas, who was 27th in the NCAA with 5.5 assists per game, to expired eligibility.

Balado said senior guard Deven Simms (13.4 points per game) "can score at three levels," and Balado intends to use most of his bench as part of his high-paced style of play.

"Starting is overrated," Balado said. "I want to play at least a minimum of 10 guys a game. When you mix them all together, they each give you something. We've tried different lineups all preseason. No one's going to be a stranger."

Sports on 11/09/2017