For most Canadian basketball players, the career path is quite simple: Play AAU, come to a boarding school in the US, get a college scholarship and hopefully play at the next level. The top player in the Class of 2013, Andrew Wiggins, is a product from north of the border and there is a player in the top 25 of every class in high school basketball with Canadian roots. For Warren Ward, his path to the NBA’s front door was far from the norm.
“Wow, where do I begin?” Ward said. “I started playing basketball when I was about 13. I moved from London to Brampton. I ended up going to the University of Ottawa even though I had a couple of scholarship offers.”
That is where things change with Ward. Instead of putting in work at the NCAA collegiate ranks, he decided to stay at home. Spurning interest from schools such as Indiana, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Detroit and Niagara, the 23-year-old decided to go somewhere that he could play right away and where he was comfortable. We’ll let him explain.
“I just didn’t think it would be a good fit for me to go and venture out to play DI basketball at the time. At the University of Ottawa, I got to work on my game and got an extra year of development being able to play five years. I became one of the best players in the country, if not the best. Now I got the opportunity to come out here to Las Vegas and as I always like to say, opportunities bring success.”
By Las Vegas, he means the prestigious Impact Basketball facility where he is training alongside future NBA draft picks such as Jamaal Franklin, Peyton Siva and Colton Iverson along with NBA vets such as Christian Eyenga, Marcus Fizer, Craig Brackins and Dexter Pittman who are looking to hone their skills for their next contract. The 6-5 wing walked into the gym with practically everyone just thinking that he was another guy looking to get his game right before heading to Europe. Not exceptionally athletic and rocking the shortest shorts in the gym by far, most of the players had him as an oversight—until the five-on-five games began. Drilling a pair of NBA three-pointers and a tough step-back, an immediate buzz swirled around the gym about who the new kid on the block was. I knew who he was, but I had no clue that he was this good.
Warren isn’t a guy who is going to kill you with an exceptional first step or jaw-dropping leaping ability; He is a guy who knows how to play. With a scoring arsenal that can hurt you at all three levels, the Ottawa U. product can hit the NBA three, pull up at the drop of a dime from mid-range and finish creatively at the rim. Given that he was the best player on the floor for his university team, he was forced to assume more of the role of a playmaker and you could see with his vision at Impact. Still, there is a big adjustment ahead for Ward dealing with the dynamo athletes at the off-guard spot, something he openly admits himself.
“I’m really trying to work on my attack moves, specifically my ball handling and attacking the rim” he said. “I think that the play here [in the US] is becoming more of an athletic game with running and jumping. I think that I have the skills, but I want to be a better finisher and overall scorer.”
As a player who just finished up his college career, you’d think that he’d be vying for a spot in June’s NBA Draft just like everyone else, right? Wrong. Since Ward is considered an international prospect, he was automatically eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft unbeknownst to himself. Considered an unrestricted free agent at the moment, he already has workouts set up with the Raptors, Magic and a few other teams he can’t imagine. While missing out on the opportunity to potentially walk across the stage in NYC, this is all still just a dream for him and he hopes that he can be an example for other Canadian hoopers.
“It’s a blessing, man. Coming where I came from, this is amazing,” he said. “I tore my ACL last year and now I’m the second player ever from a Canadian university to ever have a chance to play in the League. It gives other kids hope in that they don’t necessarily have to come down here to play the game at a high level. There are other avenues that you can take to reach the top.”