Ben Malakoff, Contributing Writer
He was walking down the street in a country he had never been to before, basketball in tow. That’s when freshman forward Hason Ward was spotted by someone in a white Lexus rolling past him down the Massachusetts road.
The car came to a stop after passing the 6-foot-9 Ward, and slowly moved into reverse.
The driver was Darryl Denson, Springfield Central High School’s basketball coach. Denson asked Ward who he played for and what experience he had. Ward was never on a team in his home country of Barbados. The family vacation to the U.S. ignited his basketball career.
“[Denson and my father] were just talking and talking and he came to the house a couple of times he got turned down,” Ward said. “And then he just kept coming back. Everything just went from there.”
Ward returned the following year, moving from Barbados to live with his aunt in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The idea of basketball stuck out to Ward, but he had never played on an organized basketball team growing up.
“When I first moved here, I basically didn’t even know what basketball was,” Ward said. “I just knew that I wanted to play basketball.”
Ward played for Central Springfield High School during his sophomore season, competing in the starting five.
The first practice was a shock for Ward. The drills made him tired, and Ward was not accustomed to being pushed this hard.
But Denson continued to make him work.
“He [kept] telling me ‘run to the court,’” Ward said. “‘Get the ball.’ I was surprised myself that I ran there. ‘Dunk it. Go back again. Dunk it.’ Coach looked at one of the players and said, ‘You think he will get accustomed to it?’”
Ward did, and he was known on the team as the dunker and shot-blocker, a title he earned after he blocked 22 shots in a single game during his junior year.
“That was an out of city game too, so they didn’t know who I was,” Ward said. “When they kept putting up the shots, I kept swatting it. And they just keep going and going, so I just keep swatting it.”
A career night for Ward started to put him on the map for D-I college recruiters. But he was still unsure about how the college recruitment process worked. When his first college scholarship was extended to him, Ward said he did not understand what the offer was.
“I was on the phone with the coach and he was just talking to me,” Ward said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, so I’m offering you a full scholarship.’ I was like, ‘OK, thank you.’ And it just happened.”
It was Ward’s mom who helped him do the research and pick VCU from other offers, which included Georgia, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. She researched what each school had to offer, Ward said.
With the college basketball season right around the corner, Ward has settled into Richmond and has become very close with his teammates. Whatever they do, they do as a group, Ward said.
“[They] try to help me feel at home,” Ward said. “And I do feel at home, I feel like this is the place I was supposed to be at.”
Just over three years after picking up a ball and dribbling down the street in Massachusetts, Ward still has to do some walking down the road. Only now, it’s walking down Broad Street to the Siegel Center.