Original article featured in Bison Illustrated.
It was just over a year ago when Tyson Ward was leading Tampa Prep High School to another Class 3A Region Final. The 6-foot-5-inch guard was a star for the Terrapins, averaging 17 points per game, and contributing more than seven rebounds and assists per night. But the first-team all-state player was without a school.
Ward wasn’t underrecruited. He just hadn’t found the fit he was looking for. That changed around March 2016 when North Dakota State men’s basketball coach Dave Richman and associate head coach Jayden Olson took a trip to Tampa.
“YOU’RE HERE FOR THIS CULTURE. THE CULTURE IS GOING TO WIN US GAMES. ONCE YOU BUY INTO THIS CULTURE, THE SKY IS THE LIMIT.”
—Freshman Tyson Ward, Basketball
“It was late,” Ward said about the timeline of NDSU’s arrival into his recruiting process. Ward had other offers from schools in the south like Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern. “I really thought about waiting a little longer, but when coach came, everything changed.”
Ward was impressed with Richman—who he said reminded him of his legendary high school coach Joe Fenlon—and his uncanny ability to make Fargo sound like home even though it’s seemingly a million miles away from the 8-1-3.
“Here was the only place I visited because I wasn’t really ready to see anything else,” Ward said. “I was just so stuck on NDSU because of what they told me. He (Richman) didn’t promise me anything, he didn’t do any of that. He just gave me a different feeling than other college coaches.”
Richman didn’t have to promise Ward anything because the freshman showed up last summer and allowed his game to do the talking. Ward played in every game this season as a true freshman. He averaged 19.2 minutes a game and was the second man off the bench all season.
Among the many highlights of Ward’s first season at NDSU, the most memorable came in an overtime defeat against IUPUI. The freshman poured in 22 points and shot 69 percent from the field.
Ward said he came to NDSU for the culture and that’s exactly what he found with Richman and his team that finished second in the Summit League. Ward’s freshman year came to a sudden end in the conference tournament and he dealt with it by going to the gym to work on the craft he’s been perfecting his whole life.
Ward will never forget that feeling in the locker room after IUPUI pulled the upset in the Summit League tournament. And he’s ready to do everything it takes to raise the Bison back to the championship stage.