The Tallahassee Summer League is a good opportunity for local high school boys’ basketball teams to polish their skills.
It also gives coaches and players — especially newcomers — the opportunity to learn. About each other. About expectations.
Charlie Ward understands this. Perhaps as well as anyone.
The Florida State legend has returned to the sidelines as Florida High’s new boys’ basketball coach.
“We play in games every Tuesday night,” Ward said.
“This gives us an opportunity to learn in-game action and to come together. It’s good for our kids and it’s good for the coaches. We can see what the kids can do in a game environment.”
Ward, 47, of course, is regarded as one of FSU’s best athletes. Ever.
He led the Seminoles to their first national title in football, won the Heisman Trophy and helped the basketball team reach the Elite Eight. The point guard played 10 years in the NBA. Since then, he has followed his dream to teach the game from the sidelines.
“Coach Ward is a tremendous individual. He’s a true man of God and that’s something I highly respect,” Florida High assistant coach Steve Cherry said.
“On the basketball side, he has tons of experience and the demeanor to coach young men,” Cherry added. “We’re trying to establish a culture of excellence. Each day, we’re challenging our guys to be locked in and trust what we’re teaching them.”
Ward is known for his calm demeanor and ability to lead. He was in a teaching mode during the Seminoles’ game Tuesday.
He stressed fundamentals. He explained pick-and-rolls; he demonstrated backdoor screens; he showed how to play lock-down man defense.
‘I’m Coach Ward, and that’s what I want to be’
He coached varsity hoops at Westbury Christian School in Houston and football at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola for the past four years. His résumé also includes serving as an assistant with the Houston Rockets.
The skills Ward has learned along the way are proving to be beneficial to his players and fellow assistants. His reputation from his days at FSU and the NBA is well-known by the team.
“Most kids know where I’ve been as far as basketball and football,” Ward said. “It does give me credibility. But I’m Coach Ward, and that’s what I want to be.”
Ward won’t teach at Florida High but will serve in a still yet-to-be-defined ambassador role at FSU. He remains in demand as a speaker and recently released his autobiography.
His son, Caleb, is a freshman walk-on on the FSU football team.
Ward emphasizes humility
“He never exalts himself. He teaches us about humility from Matthew 23:12 which states: ‘For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’,” rising sophomore Terrion Arnold said.
“I’m not cocky, but I’m confident in my game. I learned from him to remain humble and to let my game do the talking.”
Along with the hardwood lessons, Ward is building a foundation of togetherness with the team and coaches.
On Friday, the squad will participate in an overnight lock-in at Florida High. The gathering will include various team-building activities: food, movies and discussions to help players handle off-the-court matters. The lock-in begins at 6 p.m. and runs through noon Saturday.
While the summer league concludes Tuesday, the Seminoles will meet for voluntary workout sessions through July and August.
“We’ve been blessed to have our kids each week,” Ward said. “It gives them a chance to really learn how to play the game and play with each other.”