Afield and on court, Ward is Seminoles' quarterback

January 17, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Evening Sun Staff

After a straight week of practice before the North Carolina game, Florida State's Charlie Ward scored a career-high 18 points in an 86-74 upset of the Tar Heels. It was the first Atlantic Coast Conference game for the Seminoles and their sophomore point guard.

Then, after a straight week of practice prior to the Wake Forest game, Ward had eight steals in Florida State's 88-85 overtime win at Wake Forest. The steals tied Ward with North Carolina's Derrick Phelps for a single-game high by an ACC player this season.

It shouldn't come to anyone's surprise that Ward has had two of his better games at Florida State with a week in between,considering that Ward is a pretty good football player who likely is going to start for the national power Seminoles at quarterback next season.

So it's probably unfortunate for Maryland (7-7, 0-4) that Ward will have had another solid week of practice for the Terps' first-ever ACC meeting with Florida State (8-4, 2-2) tomorrow in College Park.

As Seminoles coach Pat Kennedy said earlier this week, "By the time we get up there, Charlie should be in 100 percent basketball shape."

Unlike Virginia's Matt Blundin, who was always perceived as a football player moonlighting in a basketball uniform, Ward is seemingly at ease in both environments. A lot has to do with the positions he plays, which have their similarities.

"You can tell he's a quarterback," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "He's certainly in control of the situation. When he comes onto the court, the guys follow his lead. Obviously they respect him. Not many basketball players can do what he's doing."

Said Ward, "I haven't really played much football this year, so it's hard for me to say. But next year, I can be more of a leader and not a follower."

The only following Ward is trying to do is in the tradition of former Seminole Deion Sanders, minus the self-promotion. Ward is as quiet as Sanders was loud, and probably doesn't have the size to become as big a star as Prime Time. But that doesn't mean Ward isn't as important to Florida State's big-time basketball aspirations.

The insertion of Ward into the starting lineup against North Carolina was partly due to the one-game suspension of forward Douglas Edwards. But Kennedy knew that he eventually would get around to using a three-guard lineup with Ward at the point, former Dunbar High star Sam Cassell as the shooting guard and Chuckie Graham on the wing.

"You've seen some exceptional kids over the years in the ACC, but he's a really special athlete," Kennedy said of Ward, who is 6 feet 1 and a solid 190 pounds. "He's a tremendous competitor. Sam was struggling earlier this year; now he has two of the best games of his career. Charlie has helped us in a lot of ways."

"That's my job, to handle the ball," said Ward, who is averaging 7.4 points, 2.3 assists and 2.6 steals while playing 24 minutes a game. "I'm a true point guard. I'm not like some guys, a one [point guard] or a two [shooting guard]. I'm a legitimate point guard. I try to get people involved, then I look for myself."

Ward might not be the quickest player in Florida State's blur of a backcourt, but he could be the sneakiest. In the Wake Forest game, Anthony Tucker stole the ball from Ward and was dribbling at full speed back upcourt. Ward swooped in from behind, picked the ball clean and starting dribbling downcourt without losing stride.

"In high school, I never did get those because they would always call me for fouls," said Ward, whose personal best was nine steals against South Carolina in last year's Metro Conference tournament. "I'm not going to block many shots, so when the big guys get it, I try to get in there to take it away."

"He has as good a pair of hands as I've seen in this league," said Williams, still a bit shocked after watching Ward's steal on tape. "He knows how to compete."

Bobby Bowden didn't even know that Ward played basketball when he first came to Florida State from Thomasville, Ga. It was after his freshman year that Kennedy asked if Ward could come out for the basketball team. The idea didn't thrill the Seminoles football coach at first.

"I didn't realize that he was that good a basketball player," Bowden said yesterday. "I've really enjoyed watching him. And I think that all the pressure he's under now in the ACC with basketball can only help him next year in football."

Ward played sparingly in football for the Seminoles, getting in mostly at the end of early-season blowouts. But he was in on one of Florida State's most explosive plays, a flea-flicker pass from Ward to quarterback Casey Weldon in a 51-31 rout of then-No. 2 Michigan.

While things have calmed down considerably for Ward since the end of football season -- he suited up for the Cotton Bowl and was in basketball uniform the following night against North Carolina-Asheville -- they could get interesting in a couple of months. At about the time the Seminoles will be headed for the ACC tournament, spring football practice will be starting in Tallahassee.

"I've thought about it, but I'm not sure what I'll do," he said. "You just have to take it one day at a time."

But not one sport at a time.

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