Dec. 4, 2008
It’s called the quarterback of the basketball offense and the position comes with a monumental amount of pressure.
Just ask Courtney Ward.
The true sophomore has officially been handed the keys to the driver’s seat of the Florida State women’s basketball team as the new starting point guard. She replaces Shante Williams, who graduated last year after playing in a staggering 121 career ballgames – good enough for fifth all-time in the Seminole record books.
The soft-spoken Ward says she is ready for the challenge that comes from stepping in and serving as the floor leader in a competitive league like the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I think I am prepared,” Ward said. “I had a chance to get in there and play last year and it helped me out a lot. Coach Sue helps me out everyday talking about how important my job is and how important it is to keep working hard. As long as she keeps helping me, and I keep learning, I can help my teammates out.”
Helping Ward make the transition into her role as full-time starter is the on-the-job training she experienced last year as a true freshman. The Montgomery, Ala., native actually saw action in all 33 of FSU’s games during the 2007-08 campaign and earned the starting nod in 21 of them.
She finished her first year in the garnet and gold with an average of 5.6 points per game and also added a team second-best average of 3.09 assists per game.
Ward says that the experience gained in her rookie season, coupled with a few tidbits of knowledge passed on to her from Williams, has gone a long way in helping her prepare for her new leadership role.
“It may sound a little strange but Shante showed me how to act after a foul,” Ward said. “When we huddle up after a foul on the foul line, that’s one of the main ways to learn to be a leader. You have to lead in a really short amount of time because we can only huddle up for a few seconds.
“In order to be a leader you have to know what to say right away and say it within 10 seconds.”
The 5-foot-6 standout also credits senior team-leaders Mara Freshour and Tanae Davis-Cain as being two teammates that give her a little extra piece of mind on the basketball court.
“It gives me confidence and helps me a lot having them out there because they always know what’s going on,” Ward said. “They can help me if I need them to.”
While the pieces are in place for Ward’s smooth transition into the lineup as a full-time starter, the level of competition that the Seminoles face this season makes it even more of a daunting task.
The point guard is expected to make sure that everyone is always on the same page and head coach Sue Semrau knows that Ward will need the proper amount of support to accomplish that daily task. That likely translates into extra minutes to start the year so that she can get a steady grasp of the position before conference play kicks off.
“We are going to have to be creative early on with getting Courtney the kind of experience that she needs,” Semrau said.
In the meantime, No. 12 is ready to show her teammates, coaches, fans and opponents alike that she can lead the Seminoles right here and now.
“I am ready to be a leader,” Ward said.