Mitch Ballock: ‘I love doing this every day’

Feb 02, 2024

The legendary Bluejay sharpshooter ended his professional basketball career and returned to Creighton to mentor the next generation of basketball stars. He’s having a blast.

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Kenneth Ferriera/Omaha World-Herald

I love doing this every day. I have way more fun doing stuff with Steven (Ashworth), Baylor (Scheierman) and all these guys, just getting in the gym with them and trying to get them to essentially those levels than I never achieved.

Mitch Ballock, BSBA’21

By Jon Nyatawa

Mitch Ballock works out with the team before the game. Photo by Steven Branscomb/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Steven Branscomb/USA TODAY Sports

It’s a Monday on a bye week and one of the best shooters in Creighton men’s basketball program history is standing on the same Championship Center court where he’s taken countless reps as a college player.

But Mitch Ballock, BSBA’21, isn’t here to shoot jumpers.

He’s … rebounding. Rebounding? Er, maybe more accurately, he’s holding his hands out under the hoop as the basketball swishes through the net and drops neatly into his palms.

Two of the stars of the 2023-24 Bluejay squad — Baylor Scheierman and Steven Ashworth — are the ones who keep draining 3-pointers today. They’ve been at it for 30 minutes. In a couple hours, Ballock will be back on the court with a different Creighton player for a workout. Another right after that.

And, no shots for Ballock, now back on campus as a graduate assistant coach.

Mitch Ballock 2020 Bluejay basketball sharp shooter action shot
Photo by Kenneth Ferriera/Omaha World-Herald

“I'm good, man. I don't need to,” Ballock said.

Believe it or not, it’s really that simple. He’s good with his hoops career coming to an end.

Ballock finished at Creighton ranked third all-time in career triples (308) and 20th in career points (1,304). He holds the single-game record for 3-pointers made (11). He’ll always be a fan-favorite for his “Ballock bombs,” when he’d lift off with a foot on a center court logo and drain those loonngggg range threes with ease.

Ballock had a summer NBA stint with the Sixers, an NBA training camp run with the Cavs, a season in the G-League and another year with a pro team in Germany. He could have kept playing.

But Ballock’s basketball ambition has shifted. It happened somewhat abruptly last summer. Instead of pushing himself to perform better as a player and relishing his on-court success, he’s found the joy and fulfillment in helping others reach their potential. 

“I love doing this every day,” Ballock said. “I have way more fun doing stuff with Steven (Ashworth), Baylor (Scheierman) and all these guys, just getting in the gym with them and trying to get them to essentially those levels than I never achieved.”

He’s certainly made an impact on the team since rejoining the Bluejays this past fall.

Mitch Ballock coaching
Photo by: @Sully.612

There are these individual and small group workout sessions Ballock leads to emphasize drill work and shot mechanics. He helps build scouting reports and game plans by sifting through opposing teams’ highlights. He works with the coaching staff to finalize gameday baseline and sideline out of bounds plays.

During games, Ballock is in charge of making sure Creighton’s players match up correctly on defense – he carries a white board with numbers identifying who is guarding who. He listens for opponent play calls, he shares observations with coach Greg McDermott, and he seeks out opportunities to encourage and motivate the players.

“Mitch has been terrific. The guys absolutely love him,” McDermott said during a press conference earlier this season. “And he’s been great for me. Anytime you can have a former player that’s not playing for you now and you have a great relationship and friendship — he can challenge some of the things that I’ve done for a long time.”

Mitch Ballock

Ballock’s glad he can help, especially here at Creighton, a place that’s so meaningful to him.

A walk up the hill from the basketball facility instantly brings him back to his undergrad days. After all, it’s only been 2 ½ years. He’s enjoyed reconnecting with faculty, staff, donors and fans. He’s pursing a master’s degree in organizational leadership now.

“Those relationships have kind of changed a little bit because they're not cheering for me on the court anymore, but they're still rooting for me to succeed,” Ballock said. “They want the best for me. That’s what is great about Creighton. The people. The conversations change, but we’re here for each other.”

This is what came to mind last summer when Ballock finally pinpointed what was out of balance for him. He’d be in the middle of a workout, splashing 3-pointers like usual, but not fully engaged. 

Then he had a long talk with assistant coach Jalen Courtney-Williams about Creighton’s open GA position. He talked to his wife. He talked to McDermott. He thought about his purpose, his values and what he appreciated most about a sport he’s played since childhood.

Mitch Ballock, Headshot for Creighton

“I was struggling with the grind of getting up and going to the gym — my approach wasn't the same,” Ballock said. “It became more like work. It wasn't fun. And I had a contract offer that I’d committed to, but I hadn’t signed yet.

“I was kind of holding off for a reason. I didn't know what that reason was at the time.”

It’s obvious now.

And if Ballock really needs to scratch his basketball itch, he can suit up on Creighton’s scout team. Or join the managers for a pick-up game. Or toss in a halfcourt shot during pregame warmups. That’s more than enough, Ballock said.

“I had like 12, 13 years of just grinding,” Ballock said. “But I’ve had my time playing. I was ready for a transition, for a new challenge. I am grateful Coach Mac and the staff brought me in. If I could do it all over again, I’d do it the same way and make the same decision back in August.”