By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Forward Jon Ward has put together a great career on the court at Division III Ursinus College out in Collegeville.  A 1,000-point scorer, Ward was a first-team All-Centennial Conference selection this past season for the Bears.

But as impressive as his basketball career at Ursinus has been, it is only part of the story for Jon Ward.  You see, he really puts the “student” in the term “student-athlete”.  That will never be more apparent than this summer when Ward, a physics major, pursues his REU or Research Experience for Undergraduate over in Europe.

“I’ll be working in Paris for ten weeks at an astrophysics lab, studying gravitational waves. Things that come out of big astrophysical events such as supernova, black hole, star collapses, stuff like that.”

Exactly what you expect out of your average college basketball player.  And the more Ward describes what this experience will be like, the more you realize he is anything but your average college basketball player.

“We are trying to develop a global system of telescopes that helps with the detection of gravitational waves.  Gravitational waves are actually nothing that’s actually been physically detected yet, so they don’t know that they exist.  But the ‘Theory of General Relativity’ from Einstein predicts that they exist.”

Safe to say, it’s a little more difficult than splitting a double team in the post.

Kevin Small is Ward’s coach at Ursinus and he says he is not surprised at all that the Allentown native is taking full advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.

“Ultimately, Jon represents the ideal of both Ursinus College and also Division III athletics.  The mission, which is truly to develop scholar athletes, kids that excel in the classroom, that really thrive as students.  That set the table for terrific careers and represent the highest ideals for Ursinus, while also thriving as a basketball player and helping us reclaim an opportunity to win a Centennial Conference title, which is Jon’s goal here as a senior.  So we’re thrilled for Jon, and we’re thrilled that he’s part of our team.”

Ward takes a lot of pride in being a special basketball player and a special student.

“A lot of people kind of have the assumption that you can do one or the other.  A lot of people kind of look at athletes on a campus and are like, ‘Oh well they don’t care about their studies that much, they just care about playing sports’.  So being a part of both worlds is really interesting and it’s definitely proof that it can be done.”

Ward hopes to pursue his Ph.D. after graduating from Ursinus and eventually find a career that allows him to apply what he learns this summer and beyond to real-world situations.

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