Fike’s Ward prepared to lead the Pacers of William Peace

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Fike senior point guard Jaylen Ward was doing everything right.

He was winning games, playing well and had a 3.8 grade-point average, but no college coaches had taken notice.

Ward said he was frustrated, but he didn’t let that get to him and went with a new approach.

If they weren’t coming to him, the point guard was going to go to them.

“One day I just woke up out of my bed, and was like I’m not really getting recruited, so I have to put my name out there,” Ward said. “Within a month of emailing schools, I had like five to six schools email me back and we had consistent conversations about me playing there and enrolling there — but it just came down to William Peace.”

On Tuesday in Fike’s auditorium with family members, friends and coaches, Ward signed to play for NCAA Divison III member William Peace University of Raleigh. Ward chose the Pacers over Dean College in Massachusetts and Pfeiffer University because of the bond with the players on the team and the family-like atmosphere.

The son of Valerie McMillan and Kerry Ward will receive a scholarship worth more than $90,000 throughout his four years. 

Duane Pittman, the father of Greenfield School forward Trey Pittman and Ward’s AAU coach since the age of 10, said he couldn’t love a player, other than his son, more than Ward. 

Coach Pittman said he’s proud of the strides Ward, at six feet, has taken and that he’s more than deserving.

“He was always our coach on the floor and I know this has been his dream since he was little because we talked about it every practice, every game because he wanted to play college basketball,” Pittman said. “I knew he was good enough, he just had to pass the eye test. He’s not 6-5, he’s not going to do crazy warmup dunks, he’s not going to shoot from 30 feet, but if you watch his game he does all the little things. He’s Mr. Intangible. I always joked that if we had a tournament and I couldn’t make it, I could send the kids because he (Ward) could’ve coached them.”

The elder Pittman believes Ward has helped his son’s development as a player as well.

Another person who was helped greatly by Ward was head baseball coach Buck Edmundson. Ward kept stats and pitch counts for the baseball team after he and Edmundson developed a friendship his freshman year when Edmundson was his weightlifting coach. Ward went on trips with the baseball team and helped Edmundson by having candid conversations in the dugout.

Edmundson said in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs against Cape Fear, it was a 0-0 game and he came to a crossroads — leave ace pitcher Chad Bean in and he wouldn’t be available for the second round game or take him out with 71 pitches and be available for round two. Everyone was against taking Bean out, but Ward looked at Edmundson and gave him the push he needed to make the decision. The Golden Demons won that game 9-1 and made it to the fourth round of the playoffs. 

“I’ll miss his honesty for sure, his brutal honesty was great,” Edmundson said. “He feels just like a kid I coached just, unfortunately, I didn’t coach him. I could say things to him that other people couldn’t say and it wasn’t always what he wanted to hear, but the same thing with me, he would tell me some things that my players wouldn’t dare say to me.”

Ward said he has an interest in coaching, but for now, he plans to major in exercise science or exercise studies.