All things are possible to those who believe, former NBA player David Ward stressed as he spoke to youngsters at the Scott Stewart YMCA Basketball Camp on Wednesday at the Marco Island Charter Middle School.
The oft-traveled professional played 10 years in the NBA, getting the opportunity to play with Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls, being replaced by Dennis Rodman on the Detroit Pistons and playing on the USA team that won the bronze in the World Basketball Championship.
Ward recalled his travails and how he kept dreaming big dreams and working hard to attain them.
“When I was in fourth grade I was tall, weak and slow, not a good combination,” Ward said.
He went to the YMCA in Vancouver, Washington, telling Ted Davis, Y coach/janitor that he wanted to be a basketball player and he would do whatever was necessary. He played during lunch and after school. In seventh grade, at 6-foot-1, 125 pounds, he was at church, involved in linger longer talks.
“There was this guy, ‘Mr. Positive,’ who said, ‘You need to work like life depends on it and pray like you depend on God. If you do you can play in the NBA,’ ” Ward recalled.
At 6-foot-9 in high school he drew some looks, but the school had no winning tradition.
“But I believed,” he said. “Find your passion and develop your gifts, set goals and believe.”
He told the gathering there is no easy route, to work hard and work smart and make good decisions.
Ward spoke of his cousin and best friend who got involved in drugs and alcohol.
“They lost their motivation and became addicted,” Ward said. “They were not successful because of bad decisions. People who make bad decisions really suffer.”
The path to the NBA was not an easy road. The lack of team recognition in high school found him going to a junior college.
“I wasn’t Scott Stewart who played at the University of Florida,” he said. “I ended up at Nevada-Reno. I thought I was going to be picked in the seventh and final NBA round by Seattle. I wasn’t. I ended up in the Continental Basketball League, making $400 a week, sleeping on a futon, instead of in the NBA making $4,000 a week.”
When the Bulls Scottie Pippin was injured Ward got his chance to play with Michael Jordan.
“It was great, I got to play against Michael Jordan in practice. He once told me, ‘You can really jump for a white guy,’ then laughed (at his own joke).”
He urged participants to find a great mentor. “Everyone needs a great mentor, people who teach you how to be great,” he said. “Then share the love.
“Enjoy the journey.”
The camp was the fifth for Stewart, who is the basketball coach for First Baptist Academy in Naples.
“The camp has been special to me, I love Marco Island.” Stewart said.
He also enjoys the opportunity of putting kids together.
“We have a great mix of kids, from Marco, Naples and East Naples,” he said. As the camp progressed the kids worked together.
“At the beginning we talked about life lessons, that having a good work ethic and hard work will bring good results,” Stewart said. “They also go away as better basketball players.”