Ware: Nobody Will Help You Unless You Help Yourself

Ware: Nobody Will Help You Unless You Help Yourself

Josh Horton, Reporter

Steve Ware walks around the cozy, tight-knit, campus with a wide smile that reveals a small gap between his two front teeth and makes him appear confident, warm – and at peace.

He doesn’t have to walk far before exchanging a smile, or a head nod, with a fellow student. It’s the happiest he has ever been.

With each basketball game, his role became bigger and bigger. He can jump. He can defend. He can score. He can send an opponent’s shot into the bleachers. He can run the floor.

Oh yeah, the 24-year-old from Lorton, Va. can dunk, too.

Not just a two-handed dunk from right underneath the rim, or a one-handed slam on a break- away. He can cross up a defender on the wing, drive the line, and finish with a rim-shaking dunk.

You can count the number of players in the Freedom Confer- ence who can do what Ware does on one hand. You wouldn’t even need all five fingers, either.

In his third season in the pro- gram, second full season, Ware is now one of the veterans on the team. The forward averaged nearly a double-double with 12.7 ppg and 8.1 rebounds. He and senior point guard Matt Green know what it takes to succeed in Division III basketball. They know what it takes to win the Freedom Conference.

“I can’t even describe the feeling I get when I watch him step on the court,” his father said just hours before the Cougars took on Marywood in the Laurel Line Tournament. “I am so incredibly proud of him and how he has turned his life around.

Ware and Green know how to go to Manhattanville and come away with a victory. They know what it’s like to play against New York University in the NCAA Division III basketball tournament.

They know how to win the Laurel Line Tournament.

They were there.

The atmosphere of those gyms was nothing compared to the streets of Atlanta.

December 27, 2011, Ware’s life turned around for the better.
After bouncing around from city to city with no will other than to do the minimum to get by in life, he found himself back in college thanks to his best friend. The only real best friend he has ever had.

Brandon Chambers.

Ware and Chambers met at Virginia Commonwealth University. Chambers finished out his four years as a basketball manager. Ware checked out after a semester.

He tried the military, but both he and his father knew it wasn’t for him.

When he was discharged, he went to live with his mother in Atlanta. Atlanta wasn’t the promised land Ware was looking for. He and his mother shared a one bedroom apartment. The tall and lanky Ware slept on a tiny blue couch with half his body hanging over the side.

He had two jobs. Like his stay at VCU, they didn’t last long. He was fired from Michael’s for being late to work on numerous occasions. Then he got fired from the tire place where he was working because he forgot to put the oil cap back on the car when he was finished changing the oil. The engine locked up and Ware was out of a job.

It wasn’t about the money. There were plenty of opportunities for Ware to make a quick buck. However, the way his neighbors were doing it wasn’t exactly legal. He had a hard time turning down the quick cash, but even though he was broke and nearly homeless, he still knew right from wrong.

“In the environment that was around me, that’s all there was. That’s what my next door neighbor was doing. That’s how he made his money,” Ware said. “I was making less than 150 bucks a paycheck, so turning down two grand was really hard. There’s just certain things you don’t do.”

Ware had no job. No car. No desire to wake up in the morning.

Every single day was the same. He would sleep until the late afternoon. When he woke up, he and the others in the neighborhood would sit around, smoke, watch football, play cards and drink.

Every single day.

He didn’t want to live his life this way. He felt he had no choice.

“It was either fit in or sit in my house all day and be a straight hermit. I couldn’t do that. I’m not going back to that, no way. It’s scary man. Police used to ride up and down my neighborhood,” Ware said.

“That’s the type of place where there is so much worse going on that they’re not worried about you. You can sit on the front porch and smoke weed and they wouldn’t bother you.”

Things got so bad he would have to wear headphones to bed to block out the sounds of gunshots outside his apartment.

He hit rock bottom one mid-November day when his mother told him she was moving to Texas to take care of his grandmother.

That’s right. Rock bottom.

White tank top. Red and white Jordan basketball shorts. White tube socks. Jordan flip-flops.

That’s what teary-eyed Ware was wearing when his phone began to vibrate in his lap.

The caller ID said, “Chambers.”

The call lasted less than two minutes, but it was the call Ware needed to get back on his feet.

Brandon Chambers, his best friend from Virginia Commonwealth University and then Misericordia graduate assistant basketball coach, was calling to see if Ware had any plans of using his four years of college basketball eligibility.

“I answered the phone, faked like I wasn’t crying, and said, ‘Hello!’ He gave me the whole spiel about Misericordia. There was really no sugar-coating it with Chambers,” Ware said. “He was like, do you want to play basketball, and I was like man, you know I want to play basketball.”

Not many Division III basketball teams turn down a 6-4, athletic forward who can play above the rim and block opposing players’ shots halfway up the bleachers.

He gets to play basketball. He is pursuing a degree in sport management. He lives in a big dorm room with plenty of space and four other roommates.

For the first time in his life, he has everything he needs.

He doesn’t get mad when he sees someone taking the opportunity of earning a degree from a four-year private University for granted. He was the same way. So for him to get mad would just be hypocritical.

“I was pissed about the situation I was in,” Ware said. “Why isn’t so-and-so helping me? Where is everybody that used to be my friend? Once you grow up, you realize nobody is going to help you unless you help yourself.”

One thing remained the same between Steve Ware now and Steve Ware from Atlanta. He’s still broke. But what college kid isn’t?

He’s not worried about how he is going to pay back the thousands of dollars in student loans – at least not yet. He’s too busy being a college student.

So what should stop him from smiling?

The answer is nothing.

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