By Tom Ballato
Julian Batts was a two-sport athlete at Jeannette High School in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. He played quarterback on the football team and was the point guard on the basketball team.
While basketball was his primary sport, he didn’t receive any Division 1 scholarships despite averaging 22.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 8.4 assists during his senior season.
After high school, Batts spent one-year playing basketball at St. Thomas More, a prep school in Oakdale, Connecticut. His play earned him scholarship offers from Long Island University (LIU), Sacred Heart, Maine, Central Connecticut, NJIT, and a few other schools.
Batts committed to LIU in Brooklyn, New York. When asked about why he chose LIU, Batts responded, “When I got to the airport, coach (Jim) Mack, who recruited me, picked me up I just felt a very family-like atmosphere. I was impressed, and sometimes when you go on visits, coaches are very dry and standoffish, but we hit it off right away. Then we ate, and it was very family-like with my parents. The next day I got to play pick up with the team and see where I fitted in, and I felt like I was going to mesh with the guys that were going to be on the team and returning players.”
It was the right fit and in Brooklyn. As a 19-year-old from a small school in Connecticut, it was a no brainer. Batts enjoyed the fact that you could walk and find new places all the time.
As a freshman, he took over the starting role in the middle of the season, a position that he would be in for the rest of his career at LIU. He averaged 4.3 points and 1.7 assists per game, contributing to a team that finished 20-12.
Following his freshman year, LIU parted ways with their head coach Jack Perri. Batts contemplated transferring due to the coaching change but ended up staying with the program. LIU hired Derek Kellogg to be their next head coach.
His fondest memories came during his sophomore year at LIU. The team finished with an 18-17 record and a 10-8 record in conference play, but the winning came when it mattered the most. LIU won the NEC Conference Tournament by beating first-place Wagner on the road and made it to the NCAA Tournament. “We went on a five-game win streak, and that is when the team meshed the most. We all bought in even if it was late in the year, and we just bought in at the right time. It was just a moment that bonded us and solidified us forever.”
That run to the NCAA Tournament took some time. The team had to get used to a new style of play and a new defensive scheme. Coach Kellogg allowed Batts and his teammates to play into their strengths and to play their game. They were a faster team getting up and down the floor when Kellogg took over. During the five-game win streak, the team took it game by game but also realized that they could win the conference tournament.
The NCAA Tournament was an experience like no other for Batts. LIU played the play-in game against Radford in 2018. “Honestly, it was a dream come true. It is indescribable because, as a kid playing basketball, you grow up wishing and wanting to be in that moment. I will never forget just walking onto the court. Even though it wasn’t the traditional NCAA Tournament, it was the first four, and we were the first game of that NCAA Tournament.”
The experience of the NCAA Tournament included a police escort, fans cheering for them, and taking a private plane. For a small school like LIU, that is something that they don’t experience too often.
This past season, LIU finished with an overall record of 15-18. Batts averaged 8.5 points and 2 assists per game while shooting 41% from three. The team showed glimpses of what they could have been but didn’t get over the hump, according to Batts. It was a frustrating year because the talent and coaching were there, but LIU didn’t put it all together. The loss of Eral Penn, who was a force on defense, to injury hurt the team tremendously.
Many milestones were reached for players on the team even in a down year. A few players reached the 1,000 point plateau, including Batts and Raiquan Clark becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer.
Batts finished his career with over 1,000 points and 250 assists. When asked what he is the proudest of his accomplishments, he replied, “I played in every single game in my four years.” He even prolonged his career by hitting the game-winning layup in the NEC Tournament opener against Fairleigh Dickinson. The game-winner ended up on ESPN’s Top Plays the following day.
Now that the season is over, Batts has been taking what is next in his career day by day. He graduated in December and has been taking online classes for his master’s degree.
“I would love to keep playing if the situation was right for myself. I wouldn’t force anything, but if it is the right situation, I want to play.”
Batts wants to play professionally overseas, but also wants to be a coach in the future. Playing overseas is something he wants to do first, but if playing doesn’t work out, he would like to get a jump start on his coaching career.
From a prospect with zero Division 1 offers to living out his dream as a college basketball player, Julian Batts is on the road to success, whichever path he chooses.