KANSAS CITY, Mo. – March Madness continues Saturday and Sunday where, among other games, Creighton will take on Gonzaga. The Bluejays feature three players from the Kansas City area, including one of their best, Mitch Ballock of Eudora.
“He caught the ball on the far end, and he went baseline and he just hammered it, right on top of another good athlete from another school,” Eudora head coach Kyle Deterding said. “And I nudged the assistant coach, and I said, ‘I did not know he could do that,’ and he laughed and said, ‘Oh boy this is going to be fun.'”
Eudora doesn’t get too many players like Ballock, then again, many schools don’t.
“After games in high school, he would shoot pretty much after every home game,” Deterding said. “And one day I didn’t hear the balls bounce, and then when I walked down the hall and I look down there, and he’s helping the janitor put the bleacher backs up.”
On and off the court, Ballock impressed the whole town. It’s a town he’s proud to represent as a Creighton Bluejay. The team also includes KC-area players Christian Bishop of Lee’s Summit West and Nic Zeil of Park Hill.
“Being from Eudora and playing for a community like Eudora, that is so tight nit and together and I know a lot of people within the community, it’s really special,” Creighton guard Ballock said.
His family knew he would be great.
“He had about three older brothers and two sisters that were all athletic, so he was the youngest, so he probably took a beating at home in athletics for quite a while, but they needed to get their licking in while they could,” Deterding said.
Ballock was highly regarded, at one point attending a Stephen Curry camp. So when he played, college coaches came, including the likes of Kansas. But Creighton was the place.
“The things that you see today are what I saw the first time I saw when he was very young,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. “It’s just his high basketball IQ.”
McDermott was so high on him he gave Mitch an offer in 8th grade. The end result:
“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever coached and sometimes unselfish to a fault,” McDermott said.
“People that watch him just know, he always passes it,” Deterding said. “We’ll be like, ‘Shoot it Mitch, shoot it!’ but that’s not his style and that’s not Creighton’s style.”
Now Ballock can fill it up, a 40% 3-point shooter this season. He’s averaging 10 a game. A season high of 29 and in the Round of 32 he had 10 points helping the Bluejays make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974. With Eudora following every step.
“Throughout my college career I’ve had people come up to watch Creighton games in Omaha and their support’s been endless and incredible,” Ballock said.
Support to the point his high school coach won’t mind a second trip to Indy.
“I said how about this, you win Monday and I’ll come back next weekend. He took care of the deal, so I’m headed up there again this weekend. It’ll be fun,” Deterding said. “He takes care of people, he treats people right, he remembers people. He’s a good one.”