Dancing the Do


POSTED: Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Their gym is an ode to orange, floor to walls. But on this night, orange was not right. Campbell's best big man sat on the bench, afflicted with foul trouble.

A sizable lead diminished rapidly, and the unbeaten Sabers were being routed by the visiting Radford Rams. On the sideline, coach Zaricke Jackson stayed cool. Maybe it was the black pinstripe suit. Maybe it was his consistently calm demeanor.

By the time the big man, 6-foot-4 Patrick Ward, returned to the floor, Radford was on a roll. But Ward stabilized the ship, the Rams lost their poise (drawing a technical foul during a critical juncture) and the Sabers hit 19 of 23 foul shots in the final quarter for a 78-66 victory.

That was a big home win—Radford's only loss so far. Now 6-1 in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red West boys basketball, the Sabers (12-4) share first place with Radford. They're scoring a Red West-high 71 points per game, led by Ward (19.6) and point guard Zachery Manuel (16.3).

“;We still have a lot of work to do,”; Jackson said.

Still, they're following their motto well: “;Do the Do.”; What they also do besides working hard on the court is having a good time off it. Going to UH basketball games gave the Sabers a chance to see how good a dancer their coach really is.

“;He knows all the new dances. We were at a game, and he's all the way at the top of the arena,”; Ward said. “;He starts dancing to 'Cupid Shuffle.' “;

Manuel and Ward laugh for a good 10 seconds at the recollection.

“;He's cool,”; Ward said.

But is he a good dancer? Ward laughed more. Manuel was diplomatic.

“;He's all right.”;

To think that it almost fell apart before the dancing could even begin.

  LIVING IN A MILITARY FAMILY, Patrick Ward Jr. has packed up and moved six times, from North Carolina to Okinawa to San Diego, back to Carolina, then to Virginia Beach before arriving in Ewa. At Campbell, he's been a gem in the rough since his arrival as a sophomore. The spotlight belonged to guard Mike Makinano and center Eddie Gaines, but with their departures, Ward was set to have a breakout senior season. Raised as a guard with a silky long-range shot and smooth moves anywhere on the floor, he could dominate any kind of defender.

Bobby Samson was the Sabers coach two years ago and Glenn Flores took over last year before stepping down. Samson had a mantra: “;The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”; His former assistant, Zaricke Jackson, took the reins in the offseason and put that mantra to work.

By summer league, Ward and Jackson were at odds.

Jackson, an old-school strategist, saw his star player as a post-up scorer first, perimeter gunner second, using his svelte moves and shooting touch to control the paint and knock down maybe a dozen free throws every night. Ward wanted nothing to do with that approach.

“;Sometimes, I'd do things my way, how I play. I like playing outside. He wanted me inside,”; said Ward.

When tryouts opened on Dec. 1, the temperature gauge blew up. Jackson has specific rules about when players can have water breaks, unlike previous years. Ward said he wasn't aware of the rule changes. After a “;man in the hole”; drill, he went to the water fountain.

“;He snapped at me and I snapped back,”; Ward said.

He took off his practice jersey and stunned teammates began to ask Ward if he was really going to leave.

A sinking feeling in Manuel's gut told him this was bad. Real bad.

“;I thought they were doing better. They had a meeting before practice,”; he said.

But as Ward asked to talk to coach Jackson, Jackson asked him to wait until after practice. Ward left his jersey behind, walking out the door.

“;I thought our season was done,”; Manuel said.

  WARD'S FATHER, PATRICK SR., is a Marine through and through. Dad told Junior that he was being disrespectful.

“;This is a time when I was having trouble in school,”; the son said. “;He thought I was changing, and not for good.”;

Undeterred and stubborn, Patrick stopped thinking about basketball in his future. He began talking to Marine Corps recruiters. He even went to ask for his job back at Pizza Hut, which he'd quit before basketball season.

Ward was still helping the team when Jackson asked him to keep stats one night against Hanalani. Ward refused. Any signs of a peace treaty were snuffed out.

“;He said I hadn't changed,”; Ward said. “;After that, I accepted that I wasn't on the team.”;

Ward was ready to go back to slinging pizzas when Jackson called out of the blue one day. He'd seen something new in Ward.

They'd talked after the Hanalani game.

“;He said, 'Coach. I just feel like I'm nothing.' He broke down and told me that. I knew that maybe we're getting somewhere here,”; Jackson said. “;I told him, 'You are somebody, but you just have to understand that sometimes you have to do some things that you don't want to.'

“;I saw a look in his eyes. I said, 'I may be wrong, but I believe in you. If you want to prove me wrong, that's fine,”; he said. “;I'm so glad I took him back. My job is not to kick people off the team. It's to teach kids about life and basketball.”;

Manuel sees a difference in both Ward and Jackson.

“;Coach Jackson is more open now. In the summer, it was his way or no way at all. Now, he listens a little more,”; he said.

Patrick Sr. was satisfied.

“;He told me, 'You think you're grown? You make your own decisions,' “; Patrick Jr. said.

Jackson got the same tutelage from his mother, Michelle.

“;My mom did the same thing with me. I made my own decisions and I had to live with my choices. She gave directions and left it up to me,”; Jackson said. “;That's what his dad's done with him.”;

  THEY'RE MUCH TIGHTER now. That cohesiveness was vital when Jackson received tragic news about his mother last week. The coach boarded the first available flight to Chicago to be with her as she was dying.

“;He had a lot to get out,”; Ward said of his coach's last talk with the team before he left. “;He said, respect your parents. You don't know what you have 'til it's gone.”;

The Sabers, a very loosey-goosey bunch, took heed.

“;We tend to play around,”; Manuel said. “;Then we found out before practice and we were serious. We got ready for Leilehua.”;

Junior varsity coach Wes Pacheco stepped in for Jackson as Campbell shut down the Mules 63-36.

Yes, life for the Campbell boys basketball team is running smoothly now. The playbook even has options for Ward to play his outside game more than ever.

“;Every year I've been there, we've run some basic motion offense with screens. I wanted to open it up for everybody,”; Jackson said.

There's a middle ground, but getting there requires a different path for different people.

“;My mom, the things that she taught me as a kid has made me who I am, the discipline, the love, the forgiveness, the heart, everything that I am is because of her. I want them to know that. It is tough dealing with me sometimes, but I appreciate those kids. I really love those kids,”; Jackson said. “;They're all awesome.”;