Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Valley Graduate Ballard Points Cal to NCAA Bid

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Valley Graduate Ballard Points Cal to NCAA Bid

Article excerpt

Gerrmar Ballard has always contributed to winning basketball teams, but except for his senior season at Valley High School, he has rarely been regarded as the "go-to" guy.

As a senior there, Ballard averaged more than 20 points per game in leading the Vikings to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals and a PIAA playoff berth.

Ballard's senior season at California University of Pennsylvania has been his most productive since that final year at Valley.

Being the go-to guy, however, is not as important to him as being a leader of one of the conference powers.

Ballard has lettered each season at California, an NCAA Division II powerhouse that, for the third consecutive year, finished in first place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West posting an 11-1 league record.

This season, Ballard has emerged as a standout for the Vulcans (23-6), who had an eight-game winning streak halted last Friday in the conference tournament semifinal against Kutztown.

Ballard is averaging 11.4 points per game as the Vulcans' point guard.

"He played behind the player of the year in our conference last year [Ishmieal Kamara], and he also played behind Ryan Stefanski, who was the best [3-point] shooter in our conference the last three years," Vulcans coach Bill Brown said.

"Gerrmar had to split time between the two-guard and point guard and gave us quality minutes, playing over 20 minutes a game, but he's had a special senior year."

Before this season, Ballard was the first guard off the bench, alternating between the point and shooting guard.

"I came in as a shooting guard and coach Brown and his staff molded me into a point guard," Ballard said. "I knew I was going to have some mistakes along the way, but I put that on my shoulders and learned a lot from the coaches.

"I've gotten used to playing the point."

Despite the loss in the PSAC semifinals, the Vulcans received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II tournament East Regional and will meet Cheyney State, another PSAC team, in the first round Saturday at Misenheimer, N.C. IUP, a PSAC-West rival, also will be at that site, having won the conference's automatic bid by virtue of winning the PSAC tournament championship. …

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