Long Beach State’s Casper Ware Gets His Shot in the NCAA Tournament Spotlight


While the major national media outlets fawn over Anthony Davis and Jared Sullinger, Long Beach is proud to call one of the best players in the nation, a native son. Well, kinda. Casper Ware, a 5-10 senior guard at Long Beach State, is actually out of Cerritos, but he’s quickly turning heads across the country, including taking notice from the King himself. The Big West player of the year, Ware led the 49ers to a 15-1 record in conference and just their sixth tournament berth in school history, as they prep to face New Mexico this afternoon in the Round of 64.

Though small in stature, Ware has played big all season long, coming up clutch when 49ers needed him the most. Ware had 28 points in an early season upset of Pittsburgh, and continued his solid play against top tournament teams, when he scored 26 at San Diego State, 29 at North Carolina and 21 at Creighton in ESPN’s annual Bracket Busters event. In the Big West Tournament Final this past weekend at the Honda Center, Ware dropped 33 against UC Santa Barbara, tying a season high with eight buckets from distance.

For a school that’s always lacked an identity on the hardwood, Casper Ware has gone a long way to change the perceptions of Long Beach State Basketball. While the NBA was locked out last summer and the Drew League became mainstream and stole headlines, it was Casper Ware that was in the spotlight, winning the league’s MVP despite playing alongside NBA stars John Wall and DeMar DeRozan. He took the league by storm and averaged over 30 points in the same league that his dad starred in 30 years ago. Ware not only played out his family lineage, but put himself on a serious pathway to the NBA as he held his own and stood out despite playing against teams that included half of the Lakers.

So when New Mexico gets their shot at Ware and the Long Beach State 49ers this afternoon, it won’t be a surprise if he plays an NBA game on an NBA court at Portland’s Rose Garden. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples has the guard listed as one of his players to watch in the tournament, and even without Larry Anderson suiting for Long Beach State, Ware should be able to shine. The Lobos have held their own with key players season, as even San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin only scored 44 points against New Mexico over three games. But unlike Franklin, Casper Ware is more of a complete player on both sides of the ball.

Ware is a Defensive Player of the Year in the Big West and should give New Mexico fits when the Lobos set up their half court game. Ware’s four steals in Lawrence against the Kansas Jayhawks showcased his defensive prowess, and if he can run the 49ers’ offense and defense from the point without Anderson, he’ll have a chance to make NBA scouts drool on national televsion.

While there have been only 12 players selected in the NBA Draft that have been 5’10” or shorter since 1989, Casper Ware will be set to change that and make the country remember him as a successful NCAA and NBA player, not just a ghost who won a few awards.