Justin Ward, a junior business management major from Wisconsin Dells, believes in teamwork, and it was this team player attitude that helped him achieve a 1,000 point career milestone in a victory over Rockford College on Jan. 19, thus elevating him to a league only seen by 38 other players in all of Lakeland men’s basketball history.
The center/power forward’s ardent belief in comradery also recently helped the Muskies defeat Aurora University and Milwaukee School of Engineering, which earned Ward his third Northern Athletics Conference (NAC) Player of the Week honor.
Ward is one of four captains of the team. “He leads by example with his hard work in every game and practice,” said Brandon Hagenow, freshman exercise science major and fellow teammate.
“My teammates are a big part of my success. This is a big milestone for me, but I see better things in the future for our team and individually,”
“We have high goals this year for the team that involves reaching the NCAA tournament, and that ultimately means more to me than 1,000 points.”
Assistant Basketball Coach Sam Schroeder describes Ward as “a human highlight reel on the court and a dedicated student-athlete. He has an enormous amount of potential and the sky is the limit.”
Fellow teammate Joey Burris, sophomore communication major, said, “His skill set is normally not seen at this level.”
Ward started playing basketball in second grade. His father, Jim Ward, played in college and later became his coach.
“He is my biggest influence and part of the reason why I got into basketball,” Ward said.
It would seem the instruction of his father and coaches has paid off exceedingly well. In the 2011-12 season alone, Ward played in all 28 games, starting 26 of them, and averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. In total, he scored 470 points, grabbed 204 rebounds and also added 70 blocked shots, 25 steals, and 16 assists.
Having been raised on the game and now enjoying a flourishing collegiate career, basketball has always been an integral part of his life and his fellow Muskie teammates have become his second family.
“It makes a lot of memories when you play with a bunch of people that share the same passion as you,” Ward said.
Ward is looking forward to having even more basketball memories before he graduates next year.
“When I look back after college,” says Ward, “I want to remember NAC tournaments and NCAA tournaments, looking at the stat book, and seeing all the points.”
After graduation, he would like to continue playing basketball and has considered playing overseas.
Right now, however, he plans to focus on college and finish strong, wearing that golden number 35 jersey and enjoying the knowledge that it symbolizes his part in something far greater than himself.