Four years ago, Henry Ward heard about some kid scoring 138 points in a college basketball game. It was such an astonishing statistic that the other details – including the name of the relatively unknown school where he played – seemed unimportant.
But it’s not merely a random factoid anymore.
Ward will continue his athletic career at Grinnell College in Iowa, the school where Jack Taylor set the NCAA record for points in a single game.
Taylor’s eye-popping performance in 2012 was perhaps the most high-profile achievement for a Grinnell program that has broken many other records with its wildly unorthodox playing style. Under longtime coach David Arsenault, the team uses full-court pressure to force turnovers and create open 3-point opportunities.
“The Grinnell system was definitely a huge draw for me,” said Ward, a graduating senior at Crossroads School. “As a shooter, the system is like a dream come true. When I went for my visit, my ideas of the system were confirmed, and the hour I had in the gym with the team was quite possibly one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had playing basketball.”
The Pioneers struggled this season, going 9-14 overall and 6-12 in the Midwest Conference. But Ward will join a Division III program that nonetheless attracts talent from across the country, including one current Southern California product in Loyola graduate Matt Jasaitis.
Playing within Grinnell’s unusual system will require drastic adjustments for Ward, who made the connection between Taylor and Grinnell during a recruiting camp. When he played with the team on a visit to campus, players reminded him not to take mid-range jump shots. Yet on his first attempt, he got a defender to bite on a pump fake, took a dribble toward the basket and launched an 18-footer.
“A lot of the principles I’ve been taught through the years are going to go out the window when I get there,” he said. “I’ll have to reform a lot of habits I have right now playing the game in order to fit the system, but I think it fits my game very well.”
Ward’s game wasn’t always basketball. The 6-foot-5 prospect played a variety of sports growing up and wasn’t particularly fond of basketball until middle school, when he started at Crossroads after attending Warner Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles. It helped that he was usually one of the taller kids on the court.
“I’m always drawn to the competition, but I think the mental aspect of basketball definitely drew me,” he said. “There’s always more the game can teach you, and I love every bit.”
Ward’s game has improved in his time at Crossroads with the guidance of Daryl Roper and Travon Muhammad. He and the Roadrunners have reached the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals in each of the last three seasons.
Ward said he hopes to continue developing his writing skills as he considers psychology and sociology as possible academic pursuits at Grinnell.