By John Matisz
As an athletic kid growing up in London, Warren Ward donned a London United soccer jersey every summer before his family packed up and moved east to Brampton. Once settled in the new city, he was encouraged to give the sport of basketball a shot – a decision he may rely on as a means of living in years to come.
“We bought a basketball net outside and one day I woke up and decided I wanted to play basketball,” recalled Ward, a guard for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees entering his fourth year of eligibility.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder has a strong chance of playing professional basketball in Europe after graduating from the Communications program at Ottawa in 2013.
Gee-Gees head coach, James Derouin, is beyond thankful for the London native’s sudden urge to trade his cleats in for sneakers way back when.
“That’s about the latest you’d want to start,” said Derouin, who is entering his second year as bench boss.
A Grade 8 student when he began his basketball journey and a 21-year-old now, Ward is a reigning Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) First Team All-Star. The self-described “unquestionable leader” of the Gee-Gee’s (who were a provincial top-four team last year), Ward’s 2010-11 season included 16.8 points per game.
More recently, from Aug. 13-22, the St. Anthony’s Catholic School alumnus represented Canada at the 2011 Summer Universiade held in Shen Zhen, China.
There he put up an average of 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds over a seven-game span against some of the world’s top ball players not in the National Basketball League (NBA).
Ward and the rest of Team Canada returned home with silver medals around their neck, a feat not accomplished by Canadian men’s basketball players since the 1997 Summer Universiade.
In the final against Serbia, the Canucks lost 68-55 with Ward registering just a pair of points and a 20 per cent shooting percentage against the defensive-minded Serbs. Nevertheless, as one of the tournament’s top scorers, Ward is confident it helped boost his stock moving forward.
“Playing in the Universiade definitively helped my future,” Ward said. “I had a couple of the other coaches — who coach club teams in Europe — come up to me after the game to talk.”
Plus, the experience gained playing overseas for the first time is invaluable to a CIS player that only sees certain styles of play in Canada.
“One hundred per cent, this is the best I’ve ever done in basketball,” he said of the silver medal. “If we, (the Gee-Gees), win a national championship, that’ll probably top it, though.”
With the Gee-Gees, aside from relying on the guard for leadership and offensive punch, Derouin said Ward is an exceptional defensive rebounder. He challenges players in the paint who are often a half-foot taller.
“When he’s dialed in defensively, he’s one of the top players in the country,” added Derouin.
The all-around guard contends he is adamant about playing in Europe following his time in Ottawa.
His bench boss is confident he’ll have no problem landing a professional gig.
“Absolutely, no question,” Derouin said.