Signing day: Balcome, Anderson ink to college programs
Wednesday marked the first day of the national signing period for high school athletes to make their commitments to college programs official, and Alexandria's Brock Anderson and Justin Balcome did just that.
Anderson, heading to North Dakota State University for baseball, and Balcome, off to Northern State University in basketball, have been verbally committed to these programs for months, but signing to those schools is a fun day for athletes at this level.
"It's really exciting," Balcome said. "Obviously, it's something me and Brock have thought about for many years. It's something every athlete dreams of doing, so today I got to make that dream a reality. Couldn't be more excited."
Balcome, a 6-foot, 10-inch senior forward, knew from the first time he stepped foot on Northern State's campus in Aberdeen, SD that he wanted to play for the Wolves. He committed there late this past summer and set his focus on getting himself ready to play one final season in Alexandria before heading to the college level.
"I've never been more ready to go physically and mentally," Balcome said. "I've got my mind set on what I'm looking forward to. That's a winning season and one more run with some of the guys I've grown up with. Then it's off to Northern with hopes of a national tournament."
The Wolves currently have Alexandria native Logan Doyle on their roster who plays that same forward position as Balcome. Doyle averaged 14.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in being named first-team All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference last year.
The Wolves pushed Division I Arizona State University to two overtimes in an exhibition game on Oct. 26 before falling 98-90. This is an established Wolves program that went 22-8 last season with a 17-5 mark in the NSIC. Balcome said coaches have already decided with him on doing a redshirt season when he comes in as a true freshman, which will allow him to work on his game in hopes of being ready to contribute in two years.
"I think that is the best option for me with what they have coming back for seniors," Balcome said. "Then going into my sophomore year, so my athletic freshman year, it will be looking pretty good. I'll have an opportunity to play with other people in my class, so I'm excited."
Anderson set to do everything at NDSU
Anderson came up through Alexandria with a lot of recognition for what he can do on the mound as a lefthanded pitcher, but he has proven in recent years to be a talented hitter and outfielder, as well.
That caught the eye of NDSU coaches, and Anderson said the plan right now is to pitch and play the outfield with the Bison.
"It will be fun," Anderson said. "It feels great because they have confidence in me to do both."
Anderson predominately played center field during the 2017 spring season for Alexandria as he helped lead the Cardinals to the state tournament. As a junior, he had 33 hits, including 13 doubles, two triples and two home runs to finish with 24 RBIs, a .423 average and a .557 on-base percentage.
On the mound, he allowed four earned runs on 10 hits and nine walks while recording 25 strikeouts for a 2-0 record over a small sample of 14 innings. His 2.29 earned run average led the team among pitchers with more than 10 innings pitched.
Those kinds of numbers helped him get noticed by a lot of college programs. He wanted to play at the top college level he could and chose the Bison over other programs like South Dakota State University and Angelo State in Texas.
"Division I was obviously my main goal," Anderson said. "I put a lot of work in with the Minnesota Blizzard in the off-season from when I was 14-years-old to today. That's been a really big help with Adam Barta and the Blizzard Elite. Then in high school with (coaches) Jake Munsch, Chris Koep, Greg Toivonen, they've done a great job and helped me get to where I am today."
Anderson joins other local baseball players in Alexandria's Blake Stockert and Jake Drew and Osakis' Drew Fearing in choosing the Bison.
Anderson said he is focused on getting stronger and getting his arm in shape to help the Cardinals put together another good spring season, while preparing himself for his future at NDSU. It's an Alexandria team that lost a lot of good seniors, but one Anderson is excited to play with in his final season in a Cardinals uniform.
"I'm very excited," he said. "I'm curious to see what some other guys can do this year and hopefully we can win another section championship. It will be a very different looking team. We're losing a lot of seniors, but we have guys there to fill in, so it should be good."