Former South Carolina playmaker Scotti Ward (1960-63) was an avid basketball player. He was a better person, who overcame a lot of adversity. Ward, who passed away last December at the age of 80, will be inducted into the University of South Carolina Track and Field Hall of Fame later this month.
“I am delighted that he is recognized,” said Ward’s daughter Melanie. “For our family, it’s a huge honor. We’re so grateful. My whole family has been to Carolina so it’s important to us. I wish he was alive to see it!”
Ward has been outstanding for the Gamecocks, averaging 14.3 points per game for his career, including a team-high 17.6 points per game as a senior. He also logged on almost 84 percent of his free throw attempts, third on the all-time list. A 1,000-point scorer, Ward won second-team All-ACC honors in 1963.
Before posting those big numbers, Ward had humble beginnings, grew up in an impoverished home, and overcame a lot of adversities along the way.
âHe was born in a Kentucky home that had no running water or electricity,â said Melanie Ward. âHis mother had a third grade education. He was one of eight children, and my grandmother brought three more that she raised. He never met his father. They then moved to Valparaiso, Indiana. He always had a fiery personality, and he was very competitive. My dad never met a foreigner, and he had a lot of mentors who helped him. “
Ward was also a coveted high school long distance runner, winning 28 straight competitions and was drafted to run in Kansas, but he was in high demand on hardwood as well.
“Scotti was a great basketball player,” said Bud Cronin, a former teammate and longtime friend. âHe was one of the most recruited basketball players in South Carolina history. Indiana University, the State of Michigan, Kentucky, and Kansas had all recruited him. He refused Kentucky to go to South Carolina!
“Scotti didn’t see the color. He saw the character.”
– Matt Younginer
Cronin noted that Ward could have recorded higher scores, but he was notable for sharing basketball with many other great players.
âHe had been blind in one eye since he was eight or nine,â Cronin said. “They played it down a bit because they didn’t want people to know he was blind in his right eye. He had no peripheral vision or depth perception, but he was a shooter. 90% free throws!
âHis senior year, he never came out of a basketball game. He played every second of every game. They led the offensive front-runner ‘to the four corners’ (before the stopwatches). There was a game where Scotti dribbled the ball for 12 minutes. He still managed to score over 17 points per game in his last year on a ball control team! “
âHe did all of this at a time when there was no three-point line and no clock,â family friend Matt Younginer said.
After his playing days were over, Ward first worked in construction in Indiana. He later enjoyed a successful insurance career with Allstate and was able to retire at age 60. He was also an avid golfer.
While Ward has won numerous honors on the field, there are many who have known him like to talk about his performances off the field.
âThe accolades alone deserve the Hall of Fame,â Younginer said. âNot only was he so talented as an athlete, but his accolades also come as a person. There was no better person to wear a Gamecock uniform from a talent perspective, but also from a talent perspective. personality. He could really light up a room. He was one of the most jovial personalities to come through South Carolina. “
Younginer noted that legendary high school basketball coach George Glymph also sang Ward’s praises.
âCoach Glymph became director of player relations for the NBA and was highly respected,â Younginer said. âWhen Scotti passed away, George released a statement saying that Scotti was one of the best he had seen play and that he was such a wonderful humanitarian. Glymph said he let him and his friends in at the Field House (Carolina) to play ball in the sixties. Back then, African Americans weren’t allowed in. Scotti didn’t see the color. He saw the character.
âHe was a very generous person,â Cronin said. “He was going around the block and if he saw a homeless man, I saw him let go of twenty of him. I saw him invite homeless people to a restaurant to have dinner with us.”
âFinancially, he was also responsible for his mother right out of college,â added Melanie Ward. “He took care of her completely until her death, along with her sisters.”
Sadly, his family never saw Scotti play college basketball. It’s bittersweet that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame after his passing, but he’s now immortalized among the greatest of all time to wear garnet and black for generations to see moving forward.
âHe was a hell of a basketball player,â Cronin said. “It is well deserved. We are delighted for Scotti and his family.”