February 25th, 2020-- Nick Ward walks off of the court after a game against the Canton Charge having just dropped 20 points and 7 rebounds on an efficient 57% from the field. For Ward, a starter for the Atlanta Hawk’s G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, this level of efficient production was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, the young big man was averaging an impressive 13 points per game on close to 60% shooting on the season and NBA executives were starting to take notice. The undrafted rookie had gone from an outdated low-post specialist to a versatile big that could guard multiple positions. His NBA stock was certainly trending upwards.
Yet unfortunately for Ward, this would be his last double-digit scoring performance of the season. Flash forward a couple weeks to March 12th 2020, and the NBA G league season was suspended due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Ward’s coming out party was over, and while he had already shown flashes of NBA potential, he had yet to fully cement himself as a future NBA talent.
Nick Ward (45) posting up in Summer League Game for the Atlanta Hawks Creator: Stephen R. Sylvanie Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY
But Ward wasn’t going to let a virus stand between him and his NBA dream. After all, Ward has a history of rising above adversity. When he went undrafted in the 2019 NBA draft after opting not to play his senior year for coach Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans, many wondered whether Ward would ever even crack a g league roster. But Ward kept pushing forward, playing in the NBA summer league for the Atlanta Hawks before taking his talents overseas to play in both Israel and Turkey. It was here that he worked on the technical aspects of his game, sharpening his ability to switch onto all 5 positions on defense as well as score at all 3 levels. Finally, after an admittedly tough 3-months overseas, Ward signed with the Skyhawks in mid-November and quickly earned a starting role.
“Keep going. Life doesn’t stop. Keep pushing forward. Adversity is always going to hit, but when you get knocked down, you HAVE to keep going.”- Nick Ward
So, what did Ward do when COVID-19 struck? He took full advantage of his new-found versatility both on and off the court. Immediately after the season was suspended, Ward went back to Turkey, clamoring to continue to play in professional 5 on 5 games. However, after playing just one game, Ward was quickly forced to return to America as the Turkish basketball league suspended all of their operations as well.
Yet Ward has remained adamant in his refusal to let COVID-19 stunt his momentum. For the past few months, Ward has ramped up his training regimen, training 4 times a day and participating in professional 5-on-5 runs daily. Further, with the NBA G league not set to start up again any time soon, he is currently playing in Turkey again as a member of the Istanbul Basket where he is averaging nearly 20 points per game. If this lofty points per game average is any indication, Ward’s game seems to be at an all-time high, and he looks poised to make a real push for the NBA once the G league is up and running again. As Ward puts it, all of his teammates will be rusty having gone almost a year without playing basketball, whereas he won’t have missed a beat. Who knows, if Ward has a hot start to his 2021 G league campaign, he could find himself on an NBA roster in short order.
Posted By Oliver Wiener 11/4/2020