For the Ware clan, summer basketball is a family affair

 

By: Edward Moran


The Drew League's most famous family is teaming up in TBT 2019

One can argue that the Ware clan is California’s most historic basketball family. In the 1970s, Long Beach-native Casper Ware Sr. starred in Los Angeles’ famous Drew League, the biggest pro-am basketball league on the West Coast which in recent years has featured the likes of Metta World Peace, James Harden, and Kevin Durant. By the end of his playing career, Ware Sr. led his team, the L.A. Cheaters, to nine championships, and has been regarded as one of the five best players in Drew League history.

Now, some 40 years later, Ware Sr. is still balling, but has traded in his playing spot for a seat on the sidelines. This summer, Ware Sr. will be coaching the L.A. Cheaters in TBT 2019’s Salt Lake Regional. It’s a proud moment for the Cheaters head coach who, along with longtime family friend Ronald Scipio, will be coaching both of his sons, Casper Jr. and Ervin Ware. For Ervin, it’s another TBT campaign playing under his father. For Casper Jr., it’s his first, which means that the Ware men will unite in the pursuit of the ultimate $2M cash prize. 

“To have two of your sons playing on (the LA Cheaters), it's big” said Ware Sr. “The competition's good and we just can't wait. It's something that we've been looking forward to and it seems like it's about that time. (TBT 2018) went by so fast and it's already here, so it's something that we're definitely looking forward to.”

Despite playing together for the first time in TBT 2019, at least one member of the family has been on the cusp of a TBT title. Casper Jr. was a prominent player on the 2017 Team Challenge ALS squad which made it to the TBT Championship in Baltimore. Against the reigning three-time champions, Overseas Elite, Casper Jr. kept Team Challenge ALS in it, scoring a team-high 22 points and dishing out five assists. Even though they ultimately lost, 86-83, Casper Jr. showed he could lead a team to success in TBT. After Team Challenge ALS’s disappointing quarterfinal finish in TBT 2018, Casper Sr. is looking forward to the challenge of having Casper Jr. join forces with him and Ervin.

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“I mean, the last two years playing with (Team Challenge ALS) was tremendous,” said Ware Sr. “We were watching the games and everything. We were screaming and yelling, rooting for them and it was just a competition and TBT was really strong. You win now, you deserve to win it and they were just that close.”

“Any time that you are playing for a cause to try to make a difference and trying to raise money and awareness of the cause, it's always a wonderful thing,” said Scipio. “There are so many things that are out here that affect us and if we don't stand for something, we'll fall for anything. I'm just glad that (Casper Jr.) was able to represent that and had a high character coach with Darren Collison, them being upfront. So, that was just awesome to see.”

The last time that Casper Jr. and Ervin joined forces, onlookers could tell they were born with basketball in their blood. In the 2016 Drew League, the duo led their team, Basketball 4 Life, to an undefeated 15-0, only the second such record in the tournament’s famed history. In the championship game, Casper Jr. capped off the perfect run with a 27-point third-quarter performance.

Despite their limited size – Casper Jr. stands at 5-foot-10, Ervin at 5-foot-9 – they dominate the competition in different ways. While Casper Jr.’s shooting stroke and handle has guided him to a short NBA stint, his childhood saw him relinquish the point-guard role to big brother. With Ervin as the floor general dishing it to Casper Jr. on the fast-break, years of courtyard basketball have culminated in a backcourt chemistry that could frustrate TBT 2019 teams.

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“All Casper had to do is run the floor and Irvin would hit it, so that combination there is so tremendous” Casper Sr. added. “Ervin's like a coach on the floor. He's a very smart guard. He's like a coach on the floor. (Ervin and Casper Jr.), small as they are, they run back doors like they’re 6' 5" and 6' 8". That's just how it is and it's hard for someone to stop that, because the chemistry they've been playing since they were kids, you don't know what they fixing to do.”

The underdog mentality that Casper Sr.’s namesake plays with has continued into adulthood. As a guard at Long Beach State, Casper Jr. capped off his collegiate career with accolades the average player could only dream of. Two-time Big West Player of the Year. Three-time First-Team All-Big West. Two-time AP Honorable Mention All-American.

Despite his college success at Long Beach, Casper Jr.’s NBA dreams were tougher to seize. After going undrafted in the 2012 NBA Draft, he spent the first two years of his professional career in Italy. He began with A.S. Junior of the Italian 2nd Division and, following an MVP rookie season, moved to Virtus Bologna of the Serie A Basketball League. 

It was only after Casper Jr.’s second stint in Italy that he received the offer he had long awaited: a 10-day contract from the Philadelphia 76ers. In his first 10-day contract, solid back-to-back performances against the Houston Rockets (7 points, 2 assists, 2 steals) and Detroit Pistons (8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) respectively earned him a second 10-day contract with the 76ers which eventually lasted until the end of the season.

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Despite his achievements in college, his success in Italy, and proving his worth on an NBA roster, the 76ers traded Casper Jr. to the Brooklyn Nets in October 2014, only to immediately waive him. Almost five years later, after stints in Germany, China, France, and most recently Australia, people closest to him are flummoxed by why “Ware Jr.” isn’t appearing on the back of NBA jerseys.

‘If you can play what you love doing, you're good. So, all you can do, wherever you at, wherever you go, you give it 110 (percent),” said Ware Sr. “I mean (Casper Jr.) really enjoyed going overseas. It wasn't what he wanted, but where he's at and what he's doing, he sacrifices things he has to do and he's doing a good job of it. It's not really like the end of the road or nothing like that, but he’s enjoying it right now.”

“Even though he didn't make the NBA, I think everywhere he's gone he's proven that he's NBA quality and NBA material” Scipio added. “He's doing everything he needs to do necessarily at his particular size and I think that it doesn't matter but, you know, the size of the heart is bigger than some of the seven-foot giants.”

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In a few weeks, the Ware trio will be under the roof of the Maverik Center at the TBT 2019 Salt Lake Regional. Off the court, Ervin and Casper Ware Jr. are both Drew League descendants and legends. This summer, they’re gunning to cement their place in TBT folklore, and atone for everything this game has made them suffer through.

“They know how to motivate one another,” said Scipio. “They know how to motivate players around them. And plus, they're so good at creating plays that that's why a lot of people like to play with them. A lot of people like to play with them instead of playing against them, because you know playing against them you're going to have a Pitbull and a Rottweiler on you all day long.”