By Bryan Edwards
For The Eagle Post
Jacksonville State freshman and former Christian County Colonel De'Torrion Ware has come a long way since last playing in high school.
His process as a Division I athlete all started in his senior season, when Hopkinsville native and current Gamecocks' assistant coach Tommy Wade came calling for Ware to don the red and black.
Wade said his ties to the Hopkinsville area were big in getting Ware to play for him and head coach Ray Harper in Alabama.
"Hopkinsville has had players for years and years," Wade said. "We started recruiting De'Torrion in the summer of his senior year. He was a guy we kind of targeted all year. Coach Harper went in to see him early in September. (He) went to one of his games in December."
Wade is in his third season as an assistant at Jacksonville State, but his ties to Hopkinsville are deeper than many could imagine. He spent his playing days lighting up the gym at Hopkinsville High School, where he was an all-state player for the Tigers.
Following a college and professional career, Wade later returned to Hopkinsville as a coach.
Wade took to the sidelines for University Heights Academy, leading the Blazers to an All "A" State Championship in 1991.
That experience and those ties he created helped him grab a player like Ware when the time came around.
"Obviously he knew me. A lot of his family knew me, and I knew his family -- so there was a relationship because of being from Hopkinsville," Wade said. "Coach (Kerry) Stovall and coach Harper have a great relationship. Our whole staff went to Henderson last year for the regional finals. (He) came in on a visit and he pretty much committed on a visit."
Ware, now at the tail end of his freshman campaign in Jacksonville, has been through his share of adversity as he has been adjusting to Harper's system.
Excluding a game against Reinhardt, Ware's highest minute total through January was only 12 minutes. Since the UT Martin game on Feb. 7, he has averaged 12.8 minutes per game and naturally has seen his scoring go up as well.
Ware has averaged 11.2 points per game in those minutes, which included a 20-point showing against Eastern Illinois, where the freshman pulled JSU back into the game and helped force overtime. The Gamecocks ultimately won in double overtime, 89-84.
He said the biggest adjustment moving from the high school ranks into D-I basketball was playing up to the speed college basketball requires.
"It's just a lot faster than high school," Ware said. "You've got to actually play defense. I'm just buying into what they're wanting me to do."
From a developmental standpoint, Ware's breakthrough performances against Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (15 points) at the end of the season are real bright spots for Wade and the rest of the JSU coaching staff.
"We're very confident in his ability, especially to score the ball," Wade said. "I just think it's all about trust and confidence with De'Torrion -- and he's playing with a lot of confidence right now … I think he understands his role and he's accepted his role. Obviously, in the future he's going to have a bigger role, but right now he's accepted his role and he's playing it very well."
Even in the OVC Tournament for the first time, Ware's confidence did not waver, as he scored five points in nine minutes in the Gamecocks' win over UT Martin on Thursday night, and this experience will carry through for the rest of his collegiate career, which could be a bright one for the Christian County native.
Bryan Edwards can be reached at email@example.com or 270-887-3261.