Just over a year ago, power forward Steve Ware was on the verge of becoming another homeless man in Atlanta, Ga.
Until one phone call changed his life.
MU men’s basketball graduate assistant Brandon Chambers went home to Virginia for Christmas break last season and knew his best friend, former college roommate, and high school teammate was in trouble. It was then Chambers made the life-changing phone call, telling Ware about an opportunity to play basketball and get an education at MU.
There was no hesitation to say yes, Ware said.
“Literally two months before I came to campus I was sitting on my porch in Atlanta waking up with nothing to do,” Ware said. “I got fired from my job, I had nothing, man. I was just trying to make it.”
Just two weeks after hanging up with Chambers, the Lorton, Va. native made his first trip through the arches and hasn’t looked back since.
“As soon as I got off the phone, I called my dad and told him I was coming back to Virginia for some of my stuff and then I was going back to school in Pennsylvania,” Ware said. “I never even heard of Dallas, Pa. I thought I was going to Texas for a while.”
Ware arrived on campus midway through the 2012 spring semester and wasn’t in basketball shape. After sitting on the bench for much of last season, he turned some heads in the Freedom Conference this 2013 season.
The opportunity to be a key player for the Cougars wasn’t supposed to come this quickly. However, when Steve Artzerounian left the team early in the season someone was going to have to step up and make up for the lost points and rebounds.
The 6’4 Ware did just that, starting all but three games and averaging nearly a double-double each night.
“With Ethan Eichorst, Jeff Slanovec and Steve Artzerounian there last year, it was tough for him to get the opportunity to show what he’s really got,” junior point guard Matt Greene said. “When we lost Artzerounian, Ware really stepped it up big time and everyone noticed. We rely on him for a lot of our scoring and rebounding.”
Head coach Trevor Woodruff admits part of the reason Ware’s role wasn’t as big last year was the coaching staff. The coaching staff wasn’t sure what position they wanted Ware to play, which made it more difficult for him to develop confidence on the hardwood.
“We moved him around and that kept him from getting comfortable in any position,” Woodruff said. “I think this year he’s found a home for himself and has done a good job of tailoring his game and doing the things we ask him to do.”
In addition to the things the coaching staff wants Ware to do, he is doing things they didn’t know he could do. One of the pleasant surprises is being able to play above the rim, something rather uncommon in the Freedom Conference.
Chambers always knew the ability was there, but some of the things Ware has done this season have sparked emotion from the bench.
“I’m not going to lie. There have been plays he has made that I didn’t even know he could make,” Chambers said. “There was one when we played at home against FDU and had a really big left-handed dunk. During those times I definitely felt myself tear up a bit. He has come so far and he’s on the path to graduate.”
Ware is still just a sophomore and Chambers feels he has no limits, both academically and on the basketball court. He is a sport management major, but he is contemplating a switch to education.
He feels he will never be able to repay the game of basketball or Chambers for what they have done in his life.
“I dropped out of school, moved to Atlanta with my mom and then she moved away to Texas to take care of her mother, and I was just on my own. I had the lease on the apartment coming up and then it all got real. I was scared I would be out on the street,” Ware said. “Luckily for me it all came together at the last second. Thank God for basketball, man.”
Ware’s troubles have matured him. He said he found out life owes us nothing, but it is our job to make the most of it.
“It’s so hard to put into words because nobody grows up thinking they’re not going to have anything. Everyone thinks they are going to have something, and really you have the potential to do whatever you want in life,” an emotional Ware said. “I just think that I am a living testimony that with the right opportunity and chances, you can do anything.”