January 13, 2010 8:58:00 AM
CoCo Ware has high aspirations for the East Mississippi Community College men''s basketball team.
The EMCC sophomore believes the Lions have the potential to have a season to remember.
"If we keep playing the way we''re playing we will win the state and we will win the region and advance to the national tournament and compete for the national championship," Ware said.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard, from Starkville, has done his part to help EMCC get off to a good start this season. EMCC beat Itawamba C.C. 54-51 on Monday to win its fifth game in a row and improve to 13-2 overall and 3-0 in the MACJC North Division.
Ware has been a key contributor. He leads the team in scoring (17.7 points per game) and steals (44), and he''s second in rebounding (5.8 per game) and assists (35).
"He''s just an all-around player," EMCC coach Mark White said of Ware. "But it''s just not the numbers he puts up. It''s everything. It''s his leadership on and off the floor. It''s his work ethic. I never have to say anything to him about working hard. Besides the obvious stats he''s putting up, it goes beyond that."
Ware is having his second-consecutive outstanding season at EMCC. Last year, he led the team in scoring (19.1 ppg.) and steals, was second in rebounding, and fourth in assists.
Even though his scoring average is down from a year ago, Ware believes he''s having a better season.
"I feel like I''m having the best basketball year I''ve had since I came to Scooba," Ware said. "I think I''m playing better team ball. I think I''m rebounding better. I think I''m playing better defense."
White has added more talent around Ware this season and yet Ware is still carrying the team offensively and defensively.
With Ware leading the way, the Lions are on pace to finish better than they did last season (17-11 overall, 8-4 in the North).
"He just continues to amaze us," White said. "This year with our improved talent, I just didn''t think his scoring would be what it is. He just continues to amaze us that he still puts up really good numbers."
Ware torched the nets for a season-high 38 points Dec. 5 against Marion Military Institute.
"That was one game I didn''t have any idea he had that many," White said. "They opened up in a zone and it was just one of those games he was scoring in different ways. They just felt like they couldn''t guard us man-to-man because we already beat them by 20 points at our place (Nov. 17). They felt they had to play zone and he just got more opportunities than he normally does and he happened to be making the shots."
Ware dropped below his scoring average with 12 points against ICC, but he scored seven points early in the second half to spark the Lions.
The low-scoring game against ICC was an example of EMCC''s improved defense. The 51 points were the second-fewest points allowed in a game by the Lions this season.
For the season, the Lions are allowing an average of 66.8 points per game.
"It all starts on the defensive end," Ware said. "Everybody plays good defense. Nobody''s selfish. The season is going pretty good so far."
Ware''s ball-hawking ability makes him a leader on defense. He had two steals against ICC to add to his team-leading total.
"He''s real quick," White said. "He''s a great anticipator. He gets a lot of deflections. He gets out in the passing lanes."
Ware also helps on defense as a rebounder. He has grabbed 69 of his 87 rebounds on defense.
"You can''t rebound if you don''t go to rebound," White said. "One of the reasons he''s such a good rebounder is because he goes and rebounds. That''s all I can say. It might sound simple, but it is. He''s in there fighting and battling for rebounds."