Jan. 15, 2008
By Carl Cohn, FSU Sports Information
Generally, when a high school athlete moves up to the college level, he or she requires some time to grow into their potential both physically and mentally. Some rare specimens can get significant playing time and even make an impact, but very few start right away. Freshman point guard Courtney Ward began her first collegiate season as a starter on a team that reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament last year.
With such undeniable ability on the court, one might come to expect flair off of it. Yet, Ward has remained grounded and anything but boastful. That said, with her ability, opponents in the ACC will have no choice but to notice when she comes to town.
Ward's ability is no surprise to anyone at Florida State. In fact, she relates that "[She has] known Coach Sue Semrau since [her] 9th grade year." Whereas many college athletes sat at home as children and watched their idols on television, Ward was different. "I really didn't watch college basketball all that much, but when I did watch it, I liked to see Diana Taurasi play," she recalls.
Although she played softball as a youth, she realized her basketball potential at a relatively young age, and she took off running. Some of her accolades at Jefferson Davis High School included three All-State selections in Alabama, including two First Team awards, being named regional MVP, and being nominated for the state's Miss Basketball award, just to name a few. Statistically, she was among the state's elite, averaging 15.0 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game as a junior and leading Alabama in assists her senior year. All of this renown led to national publications like Hoop-Girlz.com (57th overall player) and Scout.com (36th point guard) adding her to their annual lists.
Since coming to FSU she has not slowed down at all. Ward has made a significant impression on the competition. Though she has shown signs of proficiency shooting beyond the arch (.400 from 3-point range), her specialty to this point has been her quickness and vision. Currently, she is tied for 6th place in the ACC for assists per game (4.00) along with fellow Seminole Shante Williams. The two are also tied for the team lead with 16 steals a piece. "I bring to the team my quickness, defense, and passing," Ward admits.
Of course, as any freshman could expect, she has areas that require improvement in order for her to reach her potential. Quite simply, she asserts that she "needs to improve on the little things that [the team] works on in practice every day." These "little things" certainly include discipline, as turnovers have been a reality of the young season. However, Ward maintains that these issues will be resolved in time.
One final area in which Ward has excelled in the early portion of the schedule has taken place at the free throw line, where she is shooting a team-leading 85.7 percent, a statistic that gives even more credence to her enormous potential.
Despite her brilliance on the hardwood, she is hesitant to give herself too much credit. Instead, she consistently praises the work of her teammates in helping her succeed. "All of the girls have helped out. Everything I need, whether it's schoolwork or basketball, they're there. We all get along great, so that helps," Ward asserts.
With such selflessness and a personality that steers away from the spotlight, one might question her leadership, especially considering her role in setting up plays and dictating schemes. Yet, she has a simple answer to any doubters. "I think I have the respect of my teammates. They help me out sometimes, but mostly they listen to what I've got to say. They just trust me, and I trust them, so it works out."
Looking toward the rest of the season and beyond, her goals are similar to most other college athletes, while portraying her character at the same time. "As an individual, I just want to play my role on the team to make it stronger and help us grow. With that, we can make it to the bigger games, like the ACC tournament and NCAA's. I just want to fill my role and make the team better."
Based on all early indications, she should accomplish this and much more at FSU. The rest of the ACC may not hear her coming, but they will certainly know she is here.