For transfer, time here's been a Ball

For transfer, time here's been a Ball

CHAMPAIGN — If she had stayed with her original school, Alli Ball would be playing tonight at Bowling Green. Toward the end of an eight-win season at Akron.

Instead, the Illinois forward from St. Louis has her first Big Ten tournament game.

"I'm grateful to be here," Ball said.

She completed her degree in three years, allowing her to transfer to another Division I school without having to sit out a season.

"That gave me the opportunity to come closer to home," Ball said.

Ball made the decision to transfer late in May.

"It was super last minute," Ball said.

Why Illinois?

She knew the current Illini coaches from their time at Washington University. Assistant Steve Cochran came with Nancy Fahey to C-U.

"Coach Cochran reached out to my high school coach," Ball said.

Ball is working on her master's in strategic brand communications. She will complete the 15-month program in October.

"I'm really happy with the school part," Ball said. "That was a big part of my decision."

Ball was not recruited by Illinois as a high school senior.

"Most people saw me as a post and I just couldn't play post at this level," Ball said.

Though she went to high school in Missouri, Ball grew up in Portland, Ore. Her dad Rob worked for Nike.

Her parents were able to attend most of the Illinois home games. And they made some road trips, too.

"They like to make mini-vacations out of the times we go to away games." Ball said. "That was nice to have them there for a lot of those games."

The commute to Illinois games is a lot easier for the Balls. It's a three-hour trip now compared to eight-plus to Akron.

"This was an easy decision from that perspective," Ball said. "Just to have them closer and to be able to go home more. I got to go home for a couple of days in the fall."

The move gave her a chance to connect more with her extended family in St. Louis.

Going into today's 3 p.m. matchup against Penn State at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Ball has played in 26 games, averaging 8.5 minutes and 2.1 points. She scored 13 points in the opener against Fort Wayne, helping Fahey win her first time out at Illinois.

"I have appreciated the time I've been here and I've appreciated my time as a college basketball player," Ball said. "I'm very grateful for Coach Fahey and the coaching staff for embracing me this year. It's been a ride and I have loved being part of this team."

Ball's career goals include working for a Fortune 500 company.

"Hopefully, something in sports," she said.