Junior RedHawk basketball guard/forward Antonio Ballard came to Miami University to play collegiate basketball at its highest level. He joined a squad of supportive teammates, strong leaders and rich tradition. But as January of Ballard’s freshman year arrived, he found another outpost with the same credentials of camaraderie and excellence: Greek life.
Looking through the history of Miami, many fraternities have boasted varsity athletes – but it is a trend that has faded away over time. Ballard, a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, represents a new type of throwback in sports – not jerseys or logos – but the Greek varsity athlete.
“I thought it would be interesting and fun to have another brotherly organization besides athletics, and I feel it will help me later in life,” Ballard said.
Ballard is very aware of the strength and support that comes with calling someone a brother – a fact he experiences both on the court and in the fraternity house. And with the challenge of balancing academics, athletics and Greek life, Ballard said he enjoys the support from both organizations.
“I usually have a fraternity brother with me in class,” Ballard said. “So I can go to the house and study with them.”
But the fraternal support extends beyond the classroom. Any regulars of Millett Hall know that Phi Kappa Psi always has a strong showing at games in support of their brother on the court.
“They all come to the game, and it helps me and the entire team,” Ballard said. “I e-mail everyone and say, ‘Hey, game tonight!’ and as many people come as possible.”
Fellow Phi Kappa Psi brother Steven Schenberg recognized this support all the way back to pledging.
“We made sure all of Antonio’s pledge brothers went to the games and helped him whenever he needed it,” Schenberg said.
Will this triple threat athlete, scholar, and Greek be the trendsetter for the Greek varsity athlete, marking the return of a great Miami tradition?
Ballard said he believes it is doable for those willing to make the commitment.
“If they can handle all three things – athletics, academics and Greek life – and can communicate your commitments, it’s a great experience,” Ballard said.
Ballard has already convinced fellow fraternity brother Michael Aluise to follow in his footsteps. Aluise walked onto the team for the current season and has also benefitted from the strong support of his Phi Psi brothers.
“The support has strengthened since Aluise is on the team,” Schenberg said. “We definitely go to more games in support of Antonio and Mike.”
So should other fraternities be worried for next year’s Greek Week basketball and start recruiting their own varsity athletes? Unfortunately for Phi Psi, the duo of Ballard and Aluise will not be a factor.
“I can’t play basketball for Greek Week,” Ballard said, “but I am free to do any other activities.”
Where will Ballard be a dark horse contender, ensuring Phi Psi a Greek Week first place?
“Bandstand, for sure,” Schenberg said. “Everyone knows Antonio would be good at football and basketball, but he would be great at Bandstand.”
So warn the dodgeball teams and start the Bandstand dance practices, Ballard is coming to compete with strong support from dual brotherhoods.