EMU's Ward sees athleticism as ticket to NBA
Auburn Hills — Most players go their entire career without getting an ESPN highlight, especially if they play in the Mid-American Conference.
Karrington Ward twice made ESPN's top-10 list with thunderous dunks that likely made fans cheer in living rooms across the country. Karrington is fluid, athletic and loves to run the floor.
That is why EMU coach Rob Murphy gives him a puncher's chance of making it in the NBA someday.
Karrington worked out Friday for the Pistons, trying to get an invite as a free agent following Thursday's NBA draft. Ward, a 6-foot-7 senior small forward, played two seasons at EMU after transferring from Moraine Valley Community College. He averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds his senior season.
The biggest downer was the decline in his 3-point shooting. He shot 38 percent as a junior and just 31.3 percent as a senior.
Ward appears to be a guy headed to Europe or the D-League. The Pistons are the only team that scheduled a workout for him, which is a telling sign. But Murphy is not so sure.
"He is a high character kid and is very coachable," Murphy said. "He has elite athleticism at any level, especially at the NBA level. He is an elite NBA type of athlete. He can guard positions one to three. He is a high-energy guy that runs the floor and does all the dirty work. At the next level he won't be looked at as a scorer. He has to find his niche and can become a very good defender and a consistent rebounder."
Ward has gotten his 15 minutes of fame with his dunks. Now he wants more.
"It felt pretty good," he said. "Not many people are blessed to have plays on ESPN and stuff like that. I want to show teams I can play at this level. I've got long arms and I have the athletic ability to defend. I just have to show I can do it."
Ward was not the most gifted player at the workout. Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre (6-7) was. He has loads of potential, but a slow start at Kansas hurt him. He was trying to learn the system and it took time. He is probably headed down the same path in the NBA.
He is projected to be around the 15th pick. It is unlikely that the Pistons would select him at No. 8 because more established small forwards like Stanley Johnson of Arizona and perhaps Duke's Justise Winslow will be available.
Oubre is a streaky shooter and inconsistent defender. He must work on his shot selection because he took too many uncontrolled shots. But when he is in control he has good foot work and a solid foundation.
What fuels Oubre is a tough upbringing. His family was displaced in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. He moved to a Houston suburb and lived out of the car and in hotel rooms. The family lost most of their belongings and had to start over. It was tough but the traumatic experience made Oubre tougher.
"It is an experience I will never forget in my life," he said. "It was an early stage of adversity for me. If it didn't happen I don't think I would be here today. That is my driving force every day. I feel like I am ready for anything the NBA has in store for me. But right now I am focused on being the best player that I can be."
Oubre played just one season at KU and had a tough start because he did not buy into coach Bill Self's defense and team concept.
"Coach Self wanted to stress to me that I needed to be a two-way player to succeed at the next level," Oubre said. "Once I incorporated the defense with my offense that got me off the grind and gave me a little bit of my swagger."
The Pistons announced Friday five grants through the Detroit Pistons Come Together Foundation that total $65,000.
The Dave Bing Youth Institute, which is headed by former Piston great and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, received $25,000 for its BINGO program that mentors inner city youth.
Other benefactors were the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint ($10,000), Downtown Boxing Gym and the Matrix Theatre Company. They will all receive $10,000.
Players who worked out Friday
Treveon Graham, 6-6 SG/SF VCU
Olivier Hanlan, 6-4 PG, Boston College
Trevor Lacy, 6-3, SG, North Carolina State
Kelly Oubre, 6-7 SG-SF, Kansas
Karrington Ward, 6-7 SF, Eastern Michigan
Dez Wells, 6-5 SG, Maryland