• The Cardinals traveled to Costa Rica over the summer where they played three games, explored the country and visited kids at an orphanage.
•Two of the three seniors Ball State graduated a year ago are now playing overseas. Tayler Persons plays for Leiden in the Netherlands and Trey Moses Beroe in Bulgaria. The teams played each other earlier in October where Person’s team advanced in the Euro Cup.
• With a record of 16-17, 6-12 in the Mid-American Conference, the Cardinals finished under .500 for the first time since the 2014-15 season. They went 7-23, 2-16 in the MAC that year.
• Seventh-year head coach James Whitford has always said his goal was to recruit the state well. Nine of the 14 players on the roster are from Indiana.
• The Cardinals have three local standouts on the roster this year, including senior Kyle Mallers, from Carroll, redshirt junior Brachen Hazen, from Columbia City, and freshman Lucas Kroft, a former North Side player who played his senior year at Richmond.
4 games of interest
• Nov. 9 at Evansville: The Cardinals first road game requires just a few hours of travel. The teams split the season series last year with the Cardinals picking up an 82-72 win and dropping an 89-77 contest.
• Dec. 18 at Georgia Tech: Ball State travels to Atlanta to take on a Yellow Jackets team that returns eight of its top 11 players from a season ago, who accounted for 73.2% of their scoring.
• Dec. 22 vs. Washington in Hawaii: The Cardinals are spending the holidays in paradise at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. They will play Washington on • Dec. 22 followed by UTEP or Hawaii the next day. Other teams in the tournament include Houston, Portland, Georgia Tech and Boise State.
Jan. 7 vs. Buffalo: The Bulls have won the MAC Tournament four of the last five years. Ball State fell to the Bulls last season, 83-59.
3 key players
• Luke Bumbalough, Fr., G: Bumbalough shined on the high school stage at New Castle. He was an Indiana Mr. Basketball finalist and finished his career as the second leading scorer in New Castle history (1,717), behind only Steve Alford.
• Kyle Mallers, Sr., F: The former Carroll standout has appeared in every game during his collegiate career for the Cardinals. He’s a quiet but consistent leader and has been a starter for two years. Mallers will likely play more power forward with the likelihood of Tahjai Teague moving to center after the graduation of Moses.
• Ishmael El-Amin, Jr., G: The 6-foot-1 guard from Minnesota missed 14 games last season due to injury. He’s healthy and looking to build off his 6.9 points per game average from a year ago. He shot 36.8% from 3-point, including three 3s in a win over Howard.
2 points of concern
• Rebounding: The Cardinals return their leading rebounder in Teague, who averaged 7.5 a game, but they still had the second worst offensive rebounding team in the MAC. For a team that saw 12 of their 17 losses come by single digits, that’s a big point. Teague was named to the preseason All-MAC Western Division team.
• Shooting: The Cardinals will miss Persons, who’s ninth all-time in scoring (1,558) and did it in just three seasons at Ball State. He led the team in scoring the past two seasons and was deadly from 3-point. Mallers and junior Zach Gunn can hit from deep, but beyond them, nobody on last year’s roster took more than 68 attempts.
1 major issue
• Leadership: Ball State graduated its leading scorer and assists leader in Persons, and Moses who led the team in blocks and was second rebounding. More importantly, the pair were the face of this team throughout their careers. Players such as Mallers and fifth-year seniors Teague and K.J. Walton will likely take on more of that role for the new-look Cardinals.
– Elizabeth Wyman, The Journal Gazette