EDITOR'S NOTE: Cal Poly men's basketball players write an original piece for each game-day program on which they're featured on the cover. Freshman guard Junior Ballard is the featured Mustang for the program's Friday, Jan. 4 matchup versus Holy Names. Game time is 7 p.m. inside Mott Athletics Center.
Basketball Runs Deep
First and foremost, I want to thank my lord and savior. Second, some background about me: I was born in Stockton, Calif., and raised by a hard-working mother and father. Coming from a large family where everyone played basketball, I knew – from a young age – what sport I was going to be involved in.
My oldest brother, Jayson, played for Colorado and then for another 10 years overseas. My second-oldest brother is playing at a Division II school in North Dakota. My two oldest sisters – Crystal and Rachel – also played high school basketball. My younger brother, Michael, plays at a junior college in Modesto. Finally, my youngest brother is currently in his third season at Manteca HS.
It was very competitive growing up in a large family where everyone plays the same sport. No matter what we did, everything was a competition. I remember going to the gym almost every day and playing one-on-one versus my siblings. For anyone who has siblings, you know that losing to a sibling is the worst thing that can happen because you have to hear them trash talk the whole day.
Basketball has been the biggest blessing to me besides my family. It has taught me many life lessons. The No. 1 one lesson that the game and my mother instilled in me, was, "if you don't pass, you don't play." I can recall on many occasions that my mom removed me from basketball teams because my grades were sufficiently poor. As a young kid, I didn't realize why she took something away from me that I loved. Looking back though, she had a purpose and that purpose was to keep me disciplined so that I could get to college and play at a high level while earning my degree.
The biggest transition I've had to make from high school to Cal Poly is in the area of time management. In college, having to manage class, practice, film sessions and weight training gets you out of your comfort zone. Our team travels a lot, so it's all about managing your schedule, getting enough sleep and staying on top of studies. Other than that, I have great teammates who believe in each other and a great coaching staff that pushes the team and myself mentally and physically. I truly thank everyone that's helped me chip away at life.
Program profile pieces presented by California Air National Guard