Freshman Rattler shows wisdom on court

Meet Joe Ballard, a 19-year-old guard from Chicago on the men’s basketball team.

As you look at him on the basketball court wearing a Florida A&M University jersey and with a basketball in hand, you may pass him off as just another player for the Rattlers.

But this young man is the only starting freshman for the 2005-2006 Rattlers.

Joe credits his father for his passion for playing sports.

“My father was always into sports,” Ballard said. “In high school, I played both varsity basketball and football; basically I was always around sports.”

At Westinghouse High School on the West Side of Chicago, Ballard was a highly decorated basketball player making All-Conference and All-Area his last three years in school.

He also made the All-Tournament team in the Proviso West Christmas Tournament during his sophomore year.

Ballard transferred schools close college recruitment time, which caused some coaches to lose interest in him.

“When I found out that FAMU was interested in me, I felt good because I was going to go to Indian Hills, a prep school,” Ballard said. “When FAMU was recruiting me, I took it and ran with it.”

When it came to choosing FAMU, Ballard used the help of friend and current teammate Darius Glover, who also attended Westinghouse.

“Darius told me that FAMU was a good school and my high school coach and family told me that it was a good fit for me,” Ballard said.

Head coach Mike Gillespie Sr. admits that he saw something special in Ballard.

“Joe comes from a terrific family,” Gillespie said. “He was a very good high school student and came from a very successful high school program. He was a top-notch student-athlete.”

Ballard said his high school basketball team was successful during his senior year.

“My last year we were number one in the state in the 1-AA,” Ballard said. “We were 26-4 and also won the city championship.”

But Ballard confesses that the transition to the college level was hard.

“You go from the top to back at the bottom,” Ballard said. “In high school I was the ‘big-man on campus,’ but coming to a new place, you have to start all over.”

Ballard added that earning the respect of his coaches and fellow teammates is a vital step to that adjustment.

“I knew that I would have to work to earn the respect from the coaches and team, but I knew that that part would be easy for me because I have a good work ethic,” Ballard said.

And Ballard is certainly putting his work ethic to good use according to Coach Gillespie.

“He leads the team in assists and leads in steals,” Gillespie said. “He is a constant team player. He tries to get everyone involved.”

Team work is something that Ballard believes to be the most important part of the game.

“Without the team you can not win,” Ballard said.

“Basketball is not a one-man sport. An individual can have a good game but the team can still end up losing. You need all the pieces in there to win the game.”

Glover said Ballard is doing a good job at maintaining a high maturity level while also maintaining himself on the court.

“Being that Joe is a freshman, he has some things that he has to work on but he is real mature,” said Glover a 22-year-old criminal justice student from Chicago. “Joe is real aggressive on the court and works hard and always wants to win.”

Although he would like to continue basketball after college, he said academics are also critical to his future.

“One day basketball is going to be over and I need something to fall back on,” Ballard said.

“If I don’t play basketball I want to work for the government in the FBI or CIA.”

And for this 6-feet, 180-pound freshman criminal justice student, life can only get better as his years at FAMU continue.

“We are proud of him and think he will have an outstanding career here at Florida A&M University,” Gillespie said.

Contact Katrelle Simmons at