Excitement builds as Washburn men’s basketball returns production, adds pieces

Excitement builds as Washburn men’s basketball returns production, adds pieces

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Washburn men’s basketball returns 85% of its scoring and minutes played from the 2023-24 season for next year’s campaign.

The Ichabods, who finished tied for fourth in the MIAA with a relatively young squad last season, feel like they’re capable of more in 2024-25.

“We have a lot of potential, we’ve been talking about that, but we’ve got to work for it,” rising sophomore Jack Bachelor said. “We have a lot of dudes coming back and we’re really excited about it but we’re ready to work and keep getting better every day so we can be as good as we possibly can next year.”

The ‘Bods won the MIAA tournament in 2021 but haven’t finished top three in the league since. Can next season be one that solidifies the Topeka team back with the best in the conference?

“We were knocking on the door step last year with a really young team,” head coach Brett Ballard, who enters year eight leading Washburn, said. “…I think there’s a lot to be excited about. A lot of experience coming back and a lot of tough and competitive kids that are unselfish. So, we’re extremely excited about what the future looks like here.”

Ballard expects his team to have a target on its back.

“A lot of people are going to look at us as potentially one of the best teams in the MIAA so we’ve got to show up and work,” Ballard said.

The Ichabods largely avoided the increasingly common bug of the transfer portal. Most impressively, Washburn kept a large bulk of its production while also adding University of Illinois-Springfield transfer Jacob Hanna. College hoops in 2024 have shown its rare to add a big-time playmaker without scaring others away, but Ballard and his staff found a way. The method is one years in the making.

“We talk to our guys all the time- if you come to a place like Washburn it’s going to be competitive,” Ballard said. “We’re going to have a deep roster, there’s going to be competition every year. If you’re afraid of that, or you don’t want that, this probably isn’t the place for you. We try to really lay that out when we recruit them.”

Ultimately, Ballard is asking his young men to put the team and its win total above themselves. It’s a reasonable request but one he acknowledges is much easier said than done.

“It may be minutes, or shots, points you’re sacrificing,” Ballard said. “That’s not easy to do. You try to preach it. We’ve had guys that have bought into that since we’ve been here, that’s what great teams end up doing. I think we’ve got guys in that locker room who understand that the pile will be big enough for everybody as long as we all sacrifice at a certain level.”

Besides Hanna, Washburn eagerly awaits Tyson Ruud’s contribution to the lineup. Ruud, a highly-touted prospect out of Basehor-Linwood High School, missed his entire true freshman season due to injury.

The team is also hopeful for even more from Bachelor, the Topeka native who averaged 11.5 points per game as a true freshman last season. The Washburn Rural graduate changed Ballard’s mind on the idea of redshirting, a switch the Ichabod head coach is glad they made.

“He exceeded expectations,” Ballard said. “IQ was there. Poise, competitive, tough kid. But physically he really took some steps and had a great year.”

Bachelor wants to grow as a leader before and during his sophomore campaign.

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