By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Finding a college basketball player who scores more than 1,000 points in his career is not unusual.
Finding a college student excelling in the difficult field of physics is not unusual.
But finding a college basketball player who is a 1,000 point scorer and a rising star in the field of physics … well that’s hard to come by. But that is the resume of Division III Ursinus forward Jon Ward.
First let’s talk about the basketball. Ward, a 6’10” senior, has scored 1,298 points in his career while shooting an impressive 63.1% from the field. Through four games this season, he is averaging 13.2 points (tied for the team lead) and five rebounds a game. That has helped the Bears to a 2-2 start in the midst of a tough early-season schedule.
“Our tip-off tournament was against the #2 team in the country, Middlebury, and we took them down to the wire (78-73 loss),” Ward told KYW Newsradio after a recent game. “Then the second game, we didn’t really play that well and we only lost by one (61-60) to a team that was in the Sweet 16 last year (Staten Island). Then we recovered nicely, got our first league win the other night (vs. McDaniel) and then we got this win (Saturday at Neumann). (It) is good that we are pulling out wins when we are not playing our best, because we can certainly play a lot better than we’ve been.”
LISTEN: Matt Leon interviews Jon Ward
Ward hit the ground running as a freshman back in 2009 (averaged 13.7 points his first year) and the Allentown native has been a consistent performer for the Bears during his four years.
“I’ve learned so much from (Head) Coach (Kevin) Small, so much from our coaches,” Ward says. “Past couple years, they’ve really looked to me to score a lot and to kind of create my own shot. It’s gotten to a point now, it’s happened the past two years, being double and tripled team, which is tough. But I think this year, I’m really starting to get it when it comes to, that’s just going to happen and it’s okay if I score five points and we win.”
As a senior, the countdown is on towards the end of his college basketball career, but Ward is doing his best to enjoy every minute of it.
“It certainly goes by fast,” Ward says. “I remember, it feels like yesterday, when I was here with the other seniors, when I was a freshman and having guys take me under their wing and teach me college basketball. And to be here now and to be able to take our freshmen under my wing and just to have one more shot here to win a league and to do something, because we haven’t been too successful in my career. It’s a good feeling, but at the same time I don’t want it to go too fast. Trying to cherish it really.”
Once that basketball career is done, Ward will focus on his other passion – science. He has already hit the ground running in the field of physics, as he spent two months this past summer in Paris working on his Research Experience for Undergraduate. He studied the concept of gravitational waves (see previous article for more info) and he says his time overseas was a success.
“First day I got there, my advisor pulled me aside and said, ‘Okay, here’s our goals, this this this and this. Here’s what we want at the end of this two months. So go do it.’
“My project was on my own, I didn’t have any research partners, obviously I was working with my advisor, but I started with a blank slate and was able to formulate an entire project on my own.”
Ward is well aware of the rare combination of interests that make up his life.
“I feel like I live two different lives on campus,” Ward says. “The one life is the quote, unquote ‘jock’, hanging out with the basketball guys and doing this. The other is, I know all the physics guys and we study during the week and we hang out and I know those guys just as well. So I kind of sometimes feel like I’m balancing two different things. But I definitely think being in something that analytical and that kind of grueling when it comes to school work, it helps you think the game as well. It makes you not just go out and play, you have a good basketball IQ. I think it helps with that. For sure.”
After graduating from Ursinus, Ward says he plans to pursue his doctorate in physics. After that . . the sky is the limit.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.