By Bryan Gaskins
Tribune sports editor
Pendleton — It’s time to beat Kentucky.
The Indiana Senior All-Stars will battle their Bluegrass counterparts in girls and boys basketball games tonight at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky., and Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Kokomo High School’s D.J. Balentine is a member of the boys team. He is fired up for the task at hand.
“I think we can get them. If we play together like we usually do, I think we’ll be fine. Plus, it will be nice to play in Freedom Hall,” Balentine said Wednesday night after a scrimmage at Pendleton Heights High School.
The Indiana All-Stars will head to Louisville with some momentum after going 2-0 in scrimmages against the Junior All-Stars this week. The seniors beat the juniors 104-97 Monday at Seymour and 121-96 Wednesday at Pendleton.
Kokomo’s Charlie Hall, who is the Indiana All-Star Games director, liked what he saw at Pendleton.
“Give the kids and coaching staff a lot of credit. This was a lot better than Monday night and if they build on this [in tonight’s game], I’ll really feel good,” Hall said. “There was a lot more focus [Wednesday]. They shared the ball, made the extra pass, and defensively we were just a lot better. They also rebounded better.”
Hall thinks Indiana will match up well with Kentucky.
“Kentucky has a lot of athletes, they always do, but so do we. And what I really like about this group of kids is their skill level. These guys would be good players even if they weren’t good athletes.”
The Indiana squad is loaded with talent. Nine of the 13 players scored 18 points per game or better for their respective high school squads in the 2011-12 season.
In Wednesday’s scrimmage, everybody scored at least four points and six scored 10-14.
“It’s coming together really well,” Balentine said. “We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. We expect to win big every game because we know we can be so good. We’re actually finding the feel now with the coach [Craig Teagle of Jay County]. We’re ready for Kentucky now.”
Balentine had seven points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal in 14 minutes in Wednesday’s scrimmage. The 6-foot-3 combo guard had 12 points in Monday’s scrimmage.
Balentine is part of a deep Indiana backcourt. The squad has a pair of go-go point guards in Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell (Park Tudor, Indiana recruit) and Ronnie Johnson (North Central, Purdue). They combined for 20 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists in Wednesday’s scrimmage.
In addition, Indiana has strong shooters in Balentine (Evansville), Kellen Dunham (Pendleton Heights, Butler) and Ron Patterson (Broad Ripple, Indiana).
“We all three can light it up,” Balentine said. “In practice, me and Kellen usually stay after, we’re the last ones, and we’ll just shoot against each other and stuff like that.”
Indiana is loaded on the wings, too, with Mr. Basketball Gary Harris (Hamilton SE, Michigan State), Glenn Robinson III (Lake Central, Michigan) and Jeremy Hollowell (Lawrence Central, Indiana).
Balentine said he has a simple approach when he takes the floor.
“I feel I score the ball, make smart plays, make the extra pass for an easier shot,” he said.
Balentine noted he appreciated the Kokomo fans who attended Wednesday’s scrimmage, and added he is looking forward to playing against a future Evansville teammate tonight. Adam Wing, a 6-4 wing player, is on the Bluegrass squad.