With each basketball game, his role became bigger and bigger. He can jump. He can defend. He can score. He can send an opponent’s shot into the bleachers. He can run the floor.
You can count the number of players in the Freedom Conference who can do what Ware does on one hand. You wouldn’t even need all five fingers, either.
Just over a year ago, power forward Steve Ware was on the verge of becoming another homeless man in Atlanta, Ga.
Until one phone call changed his life.
Prior to Misericordia, he had tried the military, but both he and his father knew it wasn’t for him. When he was discharged, he went to live with his mother in Atlanta. Atlanta wasn’t the promised land Ware was looking for. He and his mother shared a one bedroom apartment. The tall and lanky Ware slept on a tiny blue couch with half his body hanging over the side.
He had two jobs. He was fired from Michael’s for being late to work on numerous occasions. Then he got fired from the tire place where he was working because he forgot to put the oil cap back on the car when he was finished changing the oil. The engine locked up and Ware was out of a job.
It wasn’t about the money. There were plenty of opportunities for Ware to make a quick buck. However, the way his neighbors were doing it wasn’t exactly legal. He had a hard time turning down the quick cash, but even though he was broke and nearly homeless, he still knew right from wrong.
“In the environment that was around me, that’s all there was. That’s what my next door neighbor was doing. That’s how he made his money,” Ware said. “I was making less than 150 bucks a paycheck, so turning down two grand was really hard. There’s just certain things you don’t do.”
Ware had no job. No car. No desire to wake up in the morning.
Every single day was the same. He would sleep until the late afternoon. When he woke up, he and the others in the neighborhood would sit around, smoke, watch football, play cards and drink.
Every single day.
He didn’t want to live his life this way. He felt he had no choice.
“That’s the type of place where there is so much worse going on that they’re not worried about you. You can sit on the front porch and smoke weed and they wouldn’t bother you.”
Things got so bad he would have to wear headphones to bed to block out the sounds of gunshots outside his apartment.
He hit rock bottom one mid-November day when his mother told him she was moving to Texas to take care of his grandmother. That’s right. Rock bottom.
“Literally two months before I came to campus I was sitting on my porch in Atlanta waking up with nothing to do,” Ware said. “I got fired from my job, I had nothing, man. I was just trying to make it.”
The atmosphere of Misericordia’s gym is nothing compared to the streets of Atlanta. December 27, 2011, Ware’s life turned around for the better. After bouncing around from city to city with no will other than to do the minimum to get by in life, he found himself back in college thanks to his best friend. The only real best friend he has ever had.
Chambers made the life-changing phone call, telling Ware about an opportunity to play basketball and get an education at MU. There was no hesitation to say yes, Ware said.
I answered the phone, faked like I wasn’t crying, and said, ‘Hello!’ He gave me the whole spiel about Misericordia. There was really no sugar-coating it with Chambers,” Ware said. “He was like, do you want to play basketball, and I was like man, you know I want to play basketball.”
Ware is still just a sophomore and Chambers feels he has no limits, both academically and on the basketball court.
He feels he will never be able to repay the game of basketball or Chambers for what they have done in his life. “I dropped out of school, moved to Atlanta with my mom and then she moved away to Texas to take care of her mother, and I was just on my own. I had the lease on the apartment coming up and then it all got real. I was scared I would be out on the street,”
Ware said. “Luckily for me it all came together at the last second. Thank God for basketball, man.”
Ware’s troubles have matured him. He said he found out life owes us nothing, but it is our job to make the most of it. “It’s so hard to put into words because nobody grows up thinking they’re not going to have anything. Everyone thinks they are going to have something, and really you have the potential to do whatever you want in life,” an emotional Ware said. “I just think that I am a living testimony that with the right opportunity and chances, you can do anything.”
“I can’t even describe the feeling I get when I watch him step on the court,” his father said just hours before the Cougars took on Marywood in the Laurel Line Tournament. “I am so incredibly proud of him and how he has turned his life around.”
“I was pissed about the situation I was in,” Ware said. “Why isn’t so-and-so helping me? Where is everybody that used to be my friend? Once you grow up, you realize nobody is going to help you unless you help yourself.”