Point guard Johnathan Ball couldn’t help but feel frustrated with his playing time for the men’s basketball team last season. He could regularly be seen on the bench waiting for his chance to play. Those chances were few and far between as he only appeared in 10 games. Going into this season he had a legitimate chance to make the contribution he knew he could make.
Ball was a standout player for Alonso High School in Tampa. He left his mark at the school, becoming the all-time leader in blocks, steals and assists. He became the first player in school history to record a triple-double in the district playoffs. Despite the lack of success of his team, Ball was able to put up impressive numbers including 15 points, six assists and three steals per game.
Following high school, Ball made the decision to attend UT. His first year as a member of the team was quiet. He rarely saw the court as teammate Mike Borders led the team at the point. This was a time that Ball spent learning and waiting for his chance to make an impact.
“I think every player wants to play all the time,” he said. “Looking back on it, I understand why I had to. I got to learn from the best point guard I’d ever seen.”
There were various things Ball learned from Borders, but one stands out.
“I think I learned how to be more efficient with the ball,” he said.
With Borders no longer on the team, Ball should see a lot more playing time. He has worked hard to improve his game. He feels he’s better in every phase, most notably his shooting percentage, court vision and ball handling. The player he is now is drastically better than the player he was last season.
“If I played one-on-one against myself from last year, I’d kill myself,” he said.
As for the team overall, the preseason rankings have them as the fifth best team in the conference. One reason for this is the return of most of the players from last year’s team. The team is young and should be together for the next couple of seasons. Ball believes the team has a chance to do something special.
“I think we are better than our ranking,” he said. “It just serves as extra motivation for us, I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
If Ball takes advantage of his opportunity, he will be the one leading this surprise team.