Brittany Ward Ready To Soar (Just Keep Those Birds Away)
Sorry, Owls, Hawks, Eagles and Cardinals, but you never stood a chance.
Brittany Ward, a 6-foot-1 wing (no pun intended) and one of the best high school seniors in the nation, is unafraid of any player who might step into her path.
But a tiny bird?
"I can't stand birds," said Ward, the No. 22 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class. "I was at a train station in Chicago one time, and I was dying because there were all these pigeons."
Blame Alfred Hitchcock.
When Ward was in the eighth grade she watched the famed director's classic 1963 horror film "The Birds," and a fear of feathers soon became a thing for the talented teen from Pike (Indianapolis).
Ali Patberg, a teammate of Ward's on the Indiana Elite AAU squad, witnessed this odd phenomenon three years ago when a small bird somehow found its way inside the team's practice gym.
"Brittany was pointing at the bird and freaking out," said Patberg, a 5-10 point guard at Columbus North (Columbus, Indiana) and a Notre Dame recruit. "Everyone was cracking up.
"Even if we are outside and she sees a bird, she jumps up and runs away. She's just deathly afraid of birds."
So, Bulldogs it is.
Last week, during an unofficial visit, Ward made a verbal commitment to her hometown team, Butler.
Before the trip to Butler, she had planned to make official visits in the upcoming weeks to Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and West Virginia. But Ward said she will no longer make those visits.
"I felt such a good vibe at Butler," Ward said. "I just knew that's where I wanted to be."
Ward made the trip with 5-8 senior point guard Alexa Bailey of Bedford North Lawrence (Bedford, Indiana). Alexa, the daughter of former Indiana star Damon Bailey, had already committed to Butler, where her father is an assistant coach.
Also on the trip was another Bedford North Lawrence star -- Jenna Allen, a 6-2 forward who decommitted from Indiana after a coaching change.
Ward said she and Alexa Bailey will try to convince Allen to come to Butler.
"But, if not, we'll still be great friends off the court," Ward said.
Ward is one of the brightest stars in Indiana prep basketball, and that's saying something considering the Hoosier State has five of the nation's top 30 seniors in the Super 60.
Pike coach Robert Anglea said Ward has been a star since he first saw her play as a seventh grader. Ward was a starter at Pike from the first day of her freshman year, averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds that season.
Ward's rebounding numbers have held steady at 10 per game for her entire prep career. But her scoring average bumped to 12.5 as a sophomore and 16.5 last year. She also led her team with 4.6 assists last season.
"She's a great passer," Anglea said.
Anglea said Ward is one of the most consistent players he has ever coached.
"Her work ethic is great -- on the floor and in the weight room," Anglea said. "She has a big drive to win, but she's not selfish. One night she might get 30 points, and the next game it could be 15 points with eight assists."
Ron Patberg, the coach of Indiana Elite and the father of Ali Patberg, is another big Ward fan.
"Brittany has a warm and infectious personality," he said. "Kids [gravitate] to her and enjoy playing with her because she is such a warm and unselfish person. You can actually have adult conversations with Brittany."
On the court, Patberg loves Ward's versatility. She can post up smaller players and take slower players off the dribble.
Defensively, Patberg said, Ward can guard anyone from a small forward to a center. But she probably handles power forwards the best, and she has a knack for grabbing rebounds.
Among areas for improvement for Ward are getting a step quicker to be able to guard elite perimeter players and improving her shooting range.
"Her shooting form is fundamentally sound, and she is really strong from 17 feet in," Patberg said. "She shoots between 30 and 40 percent on 3-pointers, and I don't think she will have any trouble extending her range as she gets older."
Ward doesn't disagree. In fact, she will do anything to improve because her main goal -- really her only one for this coming season -- is to lead Pike to its first-ever state title.
"When I was a freshman, I promised my coaches and teammates that we would win state before I graduate," Ward said. "If we can do that, it would make my senior year. In fact, it would make my whole career.
"Every year we've gotten closer and closer, and I just feel like this is our year."