Guard Casper Ware Jr., in his third season with Melbourne United, is having an MVP-caliber season. Ware ranks third in NBL in points scored per game at 19.4, second in assists at 4.9 and 15th in 3-point percentage at 37.
Ware’s outstanding 2018-19 performance has Melbourne United sitting atop the NBL standings coming down the home stretch of regular-season competition. This campaign is helping to raise the Ware Family flag on another side of the Pacific.
Across the globe, the name Casper Ware carries unique clout in Southern California. The current Melbourne United star made an impression in the NCAA as a starting guard at Long Beach State, where he won back-to-back Big West Conference Player of the Year honors.
Ware’s standout season comes as no surprise to Dan Monson, Ware’s coach at Long Beach State.
Monson recruited Ware to Long Beach State out of Gahr High School in nearby Cerritos in 2008, following the coach’s first year with the program. Monson said he and his staff “were scratching and clawing to build the program with the players who worked best.” That was Ware.
Although just 5-foot-10, Ware became the tallest pillar for the program. In 2012, Ware’s senior season, Long Beach State reached the NCAA Tournament and nearly bounced New Mexico in the first round.
His tremendous play at Long Beach State added another installment in the rich, Ware basketball legacy.
“Casper’s family, and his dad…[are] well-respected not only in Long Beach, but all of Los Angeles, in the basketball community,” Monson said.
Casper Ware Sr. cultivated a reputation as one of the fiercest competitors, and most difficult to contain scorers, in the Los Angeles-based Drew League.
The Drew’s legend rivals that of New York’s famed Rucker Park; Casper Ware Sr. is The Drew’s answer to Earl “The GOAT” Manigault.
“I'd see him play against Baron Davis, Paul Pierce, other NBA guys,” Ware Jr. told the Los Angeles Times in 2011, during Long Beach State’s run to a Big West Conference regular-season championship. “He got 40 points one time. No one could stop him.”
The aforementioned Baron Davis produced the 2016 documentary, “The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce,” detailing the league’s history. Ware Sr. is a prominent fixture.
Ware Jr.’s Player of the Year honors and championships at Long Beach State expanded the family legacy in Southern California. He’s taken it further to the hardwood of the NBA.
Ware Jr. played nine games for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2013-14 season, and appeared in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, fresh off a First Team All-NBL and championship campaign with Melbourne United.
“I just shake my head he’s not in the NBA,” Monson said. “If you look at his abilities instead of his height, there’s room for him on about 10 different NBA teams that need somebody to come in, backing somebody up and play the right way.”
The NBA’s loss is the NBL’s gain, and Ware’s represented Melbourne United with the same gusto he repped Long Beach State. That includes against NBA competition. He scored 20 points with six rebounds and three assists in an exhibition against the Oklahoma City Thunder last season; notched 17 points and five assists versus Toronto this year; and had 19 points, five assists and four steals against his former NBA team, the 76ers, this past September.
Ware’s play against NBA competition very much resembled the MVP-type year he’s having in the NBL, and the same tenacious approach that built the family legacy in SoCal.
“He’s done it with hard work, and he’s done it as a team player,” Monson said.
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist in southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.