Hunter Ward is entering his senior season, already making his mark in the Webster athletic record books. This year, he is looking to do more than pad his stats.
Ward ranks fourth all-time in defensive rebounds, ninth in steals, ninth in scoring average and tenth in assists. Ward said the experience he gained from being a part of the basketball team for the last three seasons has helped him grow as an all-around player.
“Maturing has helped me grow as a better player with the team,” Ward said. “I kind of played my role for the first two years; I had some other big time players in front of me, but over the years I just kept on going and tried to step on a leadership role now that I’m one of the older guys.”
Ward’s ability to score helped him lead the team in scoring last season with a 16.2 average, which included an array of high-scoring games.
Last season, Ward scored 22 points against Blackburn College, 26 against Trinity Baptist College and a season-high 31 points to lead his team to a 134-115 win over Greenville College. Ward said the team’s offensive sets have a lot to do with his scoring. He said he capitalizes off moving without the basketball to create good, high-percentage shots.
“It has a lot to do with the sets we run with our team,” Ward said. “I like to move without the ball instead of running around and trying to shoot and score. I try to shoot off cuts and try to get to the foul line. That’s where I like to get a lot of my points, at the free throw line.”
Men’s basketball head coach Chris Bunch said Ward’s ability to impact a basketball game in so many different ways is what has made him a dominant player.
“He’s a very good player, he’s a very good all-around player, he does a lot of things well,” Bunch said. “Many times someone can just score or rebound, or there’s one thing they do well. He does a lot of things well, he can score, he can shoot, he can pass and he rebounds. If you look at the career lists of all the career leaders, he’s top 10 in just about everything.”
Bunch said when Ward was in high school, he and his coaching staff recruited him very aggressively. He said he knew Ward was considering other schools, but when those opportunities did not pan out for him, he knew he had a chance of convincing him to come to Webster.
Bunch said convincing Ward to come to Webster was especially pivotal. It is rare that he comes across a player with this amount of skill.
“It’s very difficult sometimes to get a player as athletic as him, with the kind of ball skills that he has,” Bunch said. “We felt like he could be really good and he obviously has been for the last three years.”
With Ward’s productivity on the court, he has also earned the respect of his teammates. Senior guard CJ Moore has been on the team with Ward his entire college career and said they have grown closer as teammates throughout the past three seasons.
“We’ve been together a long time, and since I’ve been here I’ve known him to be a great player,” Moore said. “He’s always giving me advice and keeping me going, and you always like to have that on your side. As far as the season goes, when things get rough, I know I have him to fall back on; the same with him, when things get hard for him, I have his back as well.”
Ward said the basketball team has left him with memories that will last forever. He said he has enjoyed his time here and this year, he wants to make sure he enjoys all of his last moments.
“My freshman year we went to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament and we beat Spalding [University] in the championship game down in Louisville on their home court, and that was a great moment,” Ward said. “We all stormed the court and that was really nice,” Ward said.
Ward said he has experienced so many great moments with the team that he cannot pinpoint one moment that was the best. He said he hopes to cherish his final season at Webster and make the most of it.
The men’s basketball team started the season off 1-4, but despite the slow start, Ward said he still has confidence the team will continue to get better as the season progresses. Ward said that he would like to see the team improve after a mediocre season last year. In his final season he said he hopes senior leadership and offensive firepower can lead the team to more wins.
“Hopefully we do a lot better than last year,” Ward said. “We kind of had a down year, we went 13-12 and we hope to do a lot better this year obviously. We’re all a good unit, we all get along pretty well and we just need to build that up for the rest of the year.”