Severna Park's Ward leaves 'em lagging

January 03, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

North County basketball coach Brad Wilson wore the same astonished look as he replayed the layup in his mind. His eyes widened, and his jaw fell open. The move hadn't lost any of its appeal more than an hour after it happened.

Gaining possession of the ball in North County's backcourt, Severna Park sophomore forward Bakari Ward lowered his head and dribbled nearly the length of the floor down the left side. As a Knights defender closed in, Ward took the ball completely around his back, rose to the basket and scored.

"I couldn't believe it," Wilson said, after his team had lost to Severna Park, 64-55, in the consolation round of the Bob Pascal Holiday Tournament on Wednesday.

"It just happened," said Ward, who scored 26 points. "I didn't plan it."

He didn't plan to lead the Falcons in three major categories this season, but that "just happened" as well.

In his first year on the varsity, Ward is averaging 22.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.0 steals through six games. He's also good for at least one block. And one purely athletic, gravity-defying, jaw-dropping move to the basket.

"He's been a major reason why we've gotten off to such a good start," said Severna Park coach Wayne Mook, whose team is 4-2. "He's super-quick, and for a 10th-grader, he's physically very strong."

Ward is listed as 5 feet 10, "and that's probably giving him an inch," Mook said. A left-hander, he loves working the left side of the court, either launching arcing shots from the baseline, or slicing through the lane and taking his chances against bigger foes.

Usually, he wins.

Frequently during the two-day tournament, Ward would go up for a shot, have a defender or two muscle in to impede his flight and still release the ball on the way down.

But more often, his hand and foot speed were his greatest weapons. Now you see him; now you don't.

"He can go from one side of the floor to the other, and it's like, 'How did he get there?' He's that quick," Mook said.

Wilson said: "Tonight, he just beat us with drives to the basket. He's so quick, we got caught flat-footed a couple of times. He does the little things that create points for himself."

And at the most opportune times.

He scored 11 points in the first half against Northeast Tuesday, including an off-balance jumper in the lane that drew a loud response from the crowd, as his layup would against North County the next night.

When the Eagles threatened to reduce an 18-point deficit to two late in the third quarter, Ward made a steal and drove for a basket. The Falcons were ahead 45-42 in the fourth quarter when Ward dribbled through a double-team to score, then blocked a shot and fed teammate Alton Fryer for a layup.

He made another steal and basket after Northeast had come within four points, but he fouled out seconds later, and the Eagles won, 62-61.

Ward had shot poorly in the first half, electing to stay back along the baseline rather than venture inside. "I was sick with the flu. I was trying to avoid contact," he said.

Mook said beforehand that he expected Eagles coach John Barbour to try to devise some sort of defensive scheme to contain the Falcons' prized sophomore. Four games into the season, Ward was a marked man.

"We tried to be conscious of where he was the whole game," Barbour said. "We mostly used a 1-3-1 trap. Every time he touched the ball, there were two guys on him. But he had 18 points, so it couldn't have worked that well."

Zone traps weren't Mook's first concern before the season began. Ward was averaging 30.0 points on the junior varsity last year when he became ineligible because of grades, and Mook was leery of more academic problems. "But he came through fine this year," he said.

Ward said, "I took care of business this time."

Just as he has been doing on the court.

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