I didn't know much about Karrington Ward before I saw him play with Eastern Michigan last year.
The little bits that I read of him, he was the Skyward Conference Player of the Year and a Division-II First Team All-American before transferring to EMU. Before going to Moraine Valley Community College and being a walking double-double for them, he was a walking double-double for Kanakee Community College.
After reading up on those details, I did what any reputable, knowledge-seeking blogger would do right before basketball season got underway: check Youtube.
When I watch him play, I see a great mix of skill and athleticism. Basketball involves both finesse and toughness. I can confirm this because I have never been either of those things.
If you went up to 100 people and made them vote if am finesse and/or tough, you'd have 101 votes saying "Alex is neither finesse nor tough. Coincidentally, he's not good at basketball."
If I played 1-on-1 against Karrington Ward and he would wear cinder blocks instead of sneakers, he'd probably let me score first to make me feel good about myself and then just absolutely shred every little bit of confidence I've ever had.
If Karrington Ward played Pokemon for Gameboy as a kid (arbitrary term when it comes to these sorts of things), he probably did (or does) these sorts of things because Team Rocket is too basic.
If I played Karrington Ward in 2k, he'd probably still beat me without ever touching his controller, kicking ass and taking names with his lvl. 815 Pidgey instead.
I've probably got his number in Super Smash Bros. 64, but sometimes I don't know if I'm Kirby and YOU'RE Captain Falcon, or am I actually Captain Falcon and I thought I've been using Kirby the whole time?
At 6-foot-7, being able to play both ends of the floor with a passion, it should come to no surprise that EMU's leading scorer from last season comes in at #5 on our countdown. He made it on the All-MAC Third Team after last season and expected to be a First Team player this year. The two "big man" positions are still up for grabs on this team, but head coach Rob Murphy made it pretty clear that Ward isn't in any danger of losing playing time.
"I think the same expectations come back to me this year to score and rebound," Ward told me. He also went on to say that he needs to be more consistent night-in and night-out. That, and now he's one of two returning seniors, he's going to be looked at as a leader of the team for obvious reasons.
Playing in 37 games for EMU last year (he started 36 of them), Ward finished 16th in the MAC in scoring (12.5 points per game), 12th in rebounding (6.4 rpg), and 11th in 3-point shooting (.377 percent). Ward also shot 43.9 percent from the floor, third on the team last year. He only had four games where he ended with a double-double in his first year under Murphy, but put up at least ten points on 25 occasions last year.
Wait, Rob Murphy. Crap, I knew I should've started out talking about defense. Of his 235 rebounds, 188 of those were defensive grabs (7th). Already on a team with Da'Shonte Riley and Glenn Bryant, who were first and tied for fifth in the MAC in total blocked shots last year, Ward still had 25 blocks and also had 52 steals (13th). Bleacher Report went as far and said that he is the 15th best defender in the nation.
See, told you he could effectively play both ends of the floor.
One of Wards's best moments with EMU came at a great time: first round of the MAC Tournament against Central Michigan. He ended up with six three-pointers for the game, but that included him banking four in a row.
"I felt like I was just pushing it [in the first half]," Ward said. "I was just trying to play hard on defense, that's usually what I do... Then the offense will just come along."
He finished with 20 points that game, but that wasn't his high. He scored at least 20 points in five games, including a 28 point-performance against Texas Arlington and a 25-er at Purdue.
Most importantly, Ward hasn't lost sight of what really matters: winning regular season and tournament games.
"Winning the MAC, the MAC tournament and get to the NCAA tournament, that's our biggest expectation."
At this point, I realize that I can't really end this with a metaphorical slam dunk like I had hoped. Here are these instead, because we all know damn well I can't do this on anything over 9-feet: