The ending to the 2016-17 Ball State men’s basketball season means the end of senior forward Franko House’s four year career as a Cardinal. In those four years, House has helped lay a foundation of success for years to come.
House and head coach James Whitford arrived in tandem in 2013-14. In their first two seasons the Cardinals combined for 12 total wins. In the last two seasons Ball State has won 42 games and House helped Whitford instill a lasting culture in the program.
“We are really going to miss Franko," Whitford said. "We are really going to miss him as a player, but truth be told, we will probably miss him as much as anything for his character and work ethic.”
Redshirt freshman Tahjai Teague recognized the mentality of House, and Teague grasped what it took for House to become the player he was for the Ball State program.
“There wasn’t a day he took off,” Teague said. “He did everything he could to put himself in position to play well. If anything [what] I take from Franko is always work hard no matter how bad it seems.”
Ball State statistic leaders:
Leading scorer: Tayler Persons - 15.5
Leading rebounder: Trey Moses - 8.3
Assist leader: Tayler Persons - 5.0
Blocks leader: Trey Moses - 37
Throughout last season House would work on his game, sometimes showing up at 5 a.m., and Whitford knows it is this work ethic Teague and sophomore forward Trey Moses must be dedicated to in the off-season.
“Our front-court has got to get stronger,” Whitford said. “I think they have a chance to be one of the best front courts in our conference, but they have to get stronger.”
A strong front-court in the Mid-American Conference can lead to a great deal of wins.
In the last two seasons Akron's men’s basketball team has won 53 games and are still competing in the National Invitation Tournament behind play from MAC Player of the Year in 6-foot-10-inch, 290-pound senior Isaiah Johnson and second team all MAC player 6-foot-10-inch, 235-pound senior Kwan Cheatham Jr .
Whitford would like to compare Teague and Moses to the likes of Akron’s big men in the future.
“I mean, when I look at Isaiah Johnson and Kwan Cheatham Jr. and what they have become, I like to think that is what Trey and Tahjai can become,” Whitford said.
With Moses’ two years of NCAA eligibility left and Teague’s three years, the Cardinals have the chance of starting two premiere big men in the conference.
Like Whitford, Teague sees a possibility of the future of Ball State basketball being like the conference-dominant Akron Zips.
“I just think as we get better, we are going to be one of the teams in the conference that people look at like how they look at Akron,” Teague said.
Akron has won back-to-back MAC regular season championships and Ball State has not beaten the Zips in 13 seasons.
Another player key to the success of the Cardinals in the future is redshirt sophomore Tayler Persons.
Moses understands what Persons brings to the floor, and Moses likes the way him, Teague and Persons fit on the floor.
“We think we have the next big three in our conference with us two and [Persons],” Moses said. “I think we play really well together. We look for each other on the court.”
Persons averaged 5.0 assists on the season and will be feeding passes down low to Moses and Teague for the next two seasons.
Like Akron — who will bring back 12 players — Ball State brings back a hefty part of their rotation and Whitford wants to take the next step.
“Seven of the nine guys that are in our rotation will be back,” Whitford said. “We have a lot coming back and I feel like we have a chance to grow and build upon the steps we have made.”
The difference between the returning rotation for Akron and Ball State is the front-court.
Akron’s Johnson and Cheatham will graduate while Teague and Moses are just at the tip of what they can become.
“I like to think in time they can be a dominant front court in our conference,” Whitford said. “I certainly get really excited with where they are in their development.”
For Whitford, it is about moving forward with the recent success that started with House and continues with Teague and Moses.
“That’s 42 in the last two years for us and that is certainly something to build upon,” Whitford said. "Now it is time to build upon it."