By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Shooting 10,000 shots is a tough thing to do.
Making 10,000 shots is a completely different story.
A story that Hannah Ward can tell.
The Crestwood junior girls basketball standout wrote that story between June and September, becoming the first player in coach TJ Henderson’s career to accomplish the off-season shooting challenge.
To be exact, Ward made 10,050 shots in the three-month period, offering a glimpse at the commitment she had to improve as a player and leader from her sophomore to junior seasons, while also showcasing her passion for the game.
“Pretty much any free time I had, I would go get a few hundred shots in. My family would help rebound for me, and they were very supportive,” Ward said.
The achievement scored Ward a Nike hoodie from Henderson, but in reality, there was an overlying and everlasting gift, as well.
Ward was the only one to get to 10,000 shots, but she was not the only one to take on the challenge. Multiple Crestwood players got involved, making a varied amount of shots, but all of the made shots helped the Red Devils improve even without reaching the finish line.
And Henderson said it is “without question” that future players will be motivated and inspired to attack the challenge, lifting the program’s commitment for the years ahead.
“Hannah has changed how our program will go moving forward,” Henderson said. “Even our middle-school players are involved with the challenge now. They look up to Hannah.”
Ward’s love of the game took hold of the program during her freshman year. She earned a role in the starting lineup alongside a large group of seniors, and her leadership voice has been growing ever since.
“When she was voted as a captain as an underclassmen, I remember her telling me, ‘I don’t think I know how to lead’,” Henderson said. “I told her that we will work on it, because young people do not always understand it. We talked about staying positive and working hard enough so that people will want to follow, and I knew Hannah would eventually figure it all out pretty easily.”
Henderson was right.
Ward, who admits that she is still growing as a leader, has found a better balance of when to lead vocally and when to lead through her actions.
Ward leads the Red Devils in scoring (13.5 points per game), field goals (77), free throws (45), 3-pointers (32), steals (57), assists (1.4) and blocked shots (30). She is also fourth on the team in rebounds (4.4 per game). All despite playing through nagging foot and ankle injuries throughout the majority of the season.
Just one year ago, Ward set a new single-season school record with 60 blocked shots.
Another comparison to last year shows a complete team improvement, with the Devils growing from a 4-19 overall record and 1-7 record in Chagrin Valley Conference play to posting a current record of 9-9 this year and 6-3 in league play.
“Hannah is a special player for many reasons,” Henderson said. “First, it is rare that your best player is also your most unselfish player. She is also like a coach on the floor. She really builds her teammates up. Then, when she performs, she gives it everything she has every single time. She has really matured in all parts of her game and it has been fun to watch.”
But so much of it goes back to the work Ward put in when nobody was watching.
Those hot summer days when she was taking shot after shot. Making shot after shot.
More than 10,000 of them.