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Here comes the son

Casper Ware Jr., whose dad was a local basketball legend, has helped Long Beach State to a Big West title

March 03, 2011|Chris Foster

Casper Ware Jr. climbed a ladder and snipped a couple of strands from the net while Long Beach State fans squealed their approval.

He had already reached as high several times earlier in the evening.

Ware, who is generously listed at 5 feet 10, had scored 25 points during a recent victory over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, mixing just-try-to-stop-me drives through the lane with pull-up three-pointers as Long Beach clinched the Big West Conference regular-season title.

But the best example of Ware and terror that evening came on defense. Cal Poly's Jamal Johnson had a breakaway layup, a gimme. Until Ware charged from behind to swat the shot.

"My dad said that you can't take plays off at my height," Ware says. "He said that people can get lazy when they are taller because they cover more space. At my size, you have to go hard every play."

Yet another case of father knowing best.

Casper Ware Sr. was a prolific scorer at Los Angeles Fremont High, and he is still revered when the Drew League -- a summer showcase of basketball talent -- convenes annually in Watts.

The family trade was handed down to his son, a junior who through Feb. 24 was averaging 16.6 points and 5.0 assists for Long Beach, now 20-10.

"When Casp tells me to, I put on my helmet and go battle," says 49ers forward Edis Dervisevic, who adds, "Please tell him I said that."

Long Beach Coach Dan Monson is not surprised by the respect Ware commands. "People have seen Casp grow as a basketball player," he says, "but he has grown so much more as a person."

That was clear earlier this year when Monson poured a glass of orange juice from a container at Ware's table.

"Casp said, 'Coach, that's my orange juice. Aren't you going to ask?' " Monson recalls. "This is a kid who didn't say three words to me as a freshman.

"They say your point guard is an extension of you on the floor. If that's the case, I'm pretty proud of who I am."

This is the result of child development.

Basketball was a top priority around the Ware house in Cerritos, where Casper Sr. and Autheia, who met at Fremont, raised five boys and two girls.

Casper Jr., who played at Cerritos Gahr High, says his family wore out "six or seven" movable baskets growing up. Autheia Ware would corral her children at night by threatening "to lock up the hoop for a week," he remembers.

"I was a teenager before the non-basketball stuff started coming in at Christmas," Ware says. "It was like, 'Oh, there's more than basketball in life?' "

Christmas Day, though, is largely about a family tournament, with father, sons, uncles and cousins playing full court in the street.

"We play like there are 10,000 people watching," says Casper Ware Sr., who works in the medical services department at a Norwalk hospital. "Kids would go into the house with tears. It is competitive."

For Ware Sr., it always has been.

His college career was a journey, from Yavapai Community College in Arizona to Loyola Marymount to Dallas Baptist College.

But his days in the Drew League were the reason ESPN named him one of California's 24 All-Time Elite Playground Legends.

"I'd see him play against Baron Davis, Paul Pierce, other NBA guys," Ware Jr. says. "He got 40 points one time. No one could stop him."

Still, though basketball was first, it wasn't only. Ware Jr. was once pulled from playing for his club team by his parents until his grades improved. Tattoos and piercings were forbidden.

The character that developed was evident when Ware Sr. took his sons' youth team to the Baron Davis Basketball Camp.

"Baron was talking to the team and asked Casper to go close the gym door," Ware Sr. says. "He did it and Baron made the point, 'Sometimes when you're told to do something, just do it. Don't ask questions.' "

The younger Ware was the first player to sign with Monson after he took over a Long Beach program on NCAA probation. The work ethic was evident.

"He isn't magically shooting the ball better this season; he worked at it really hard," Monson says. "It's not magic that he's making better decisions. He worked at becoming a good point guard."

With a little help.

Ware struggled from the free-throw line in November. Monson came in for a 10 a.m. practice one day and "Casp and his dad were shooting free throws. They'd been there since 6:30 a.m."

Ware is now shooting 81% from the free-throw line.

Another example: Ware, a mediocre three-point shooter as a freshman, is now shooting 40% from beyond the arc after a summer working with his father.

"He is known for his prolific shooting," Ware says of his father. "So I was with the right guy."

Always has been.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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