COLLEGE PARK -- For the second time this season, Under Armour basketballs are part of the conversation surrounding Maryland.
After Iowa players were asked about the balls following their loss to the Terrapins in College Park last month, junior Peter Jok described them as “heavy like a street ball,” but declined to tie the feel of the balls to the outcome of the game.
On Thursday, in advance of Wisconsin’s game against Maryland on Saturday, junior Badgers forward Nigel Hayes used the Under Armour basketballs as part of a larger answer to get a few well-placed jabs in at the economic model of the NCAA.
“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said of the equipment, per Madison.com. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.
“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon responded on Friday to the recent national conversation surrounding the balls after being asked whether or not he thinks the ball issue is a story.
“I don’t think it’s a story,” he said. “We played at Michigan and at Nebraska with Adidas balls and it ... took us a while to get used to it, so it is what it is. It’s the way college basketball is set up.
“You go play here, you’ve got Nike balls. You play here, you’ve got Sterling balls. You play there, it’s Adidas balls, so it’s the way the game’s set up -- until someone says, ‘You can’t. We’re all going to play with the same ball.’
“But I just think are making more out of it than they should.”
Hayes, like Jok, declined to tie any possible negative outcome to the balls.
Turgeon, pressed further on the topic, said variations in ball brands are just part of college basketball -- which could be an advantage, but an advantage that any number of teams can have.
“I always feel like when you play with a different ball than everybody else, it’s an edge,” Turgeon said. “We've played with The Rock in some places. I think it’s an edge for those teams that use it every day, so it’s an edge for us here, but we love the ball.”