Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt
Social media is both a blessing and a curse to modern society. It provides entertainment and information, but it can also distort reality, personality or the gravity of a given situation. Whatever your opinion of social media is, one thing can be agreed upon: it’s a heckuva time-waster. The average person spends two and a half hours a day on social media. Needless to say, much of our society’s daily focus revolves around Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
The world of social media is something that no longer concerns Tyson Ward. The Bison senior swore off all social media ahead of the 2019-20 basketball season. Why? To focus his attention on more important things, mainly academics and Bison basketball.
“There was a little bit of help from coach Richman. He said it would help me focus more and help me lock-in and I can really say that it has,” Ward said of his decision to rid his life of social media. “I can understand why some of those professional players do it. It helps to mentally lock-in and prepare, so it’s been pretty cool.”
Admittedly, Ward was a bit of a social media addict before the season. He claims he would stay up late browsing social media which hindered his sleep patterns. On top of that, social media took away some of his focus on the game. Without social channels in his life, Ward has been able to devote more focus to school, basketball and getting an adequate amount of sleep.
“It’s helped me get more sleep. I would stay up late at night on my phone all the time, but I never realized how much sleep I missed out on. I get a lot more sleep because I am off Twitter and Instagram because that was really where I spent most of my time,” Ward said. “That helped with energy as well and it all correlates into the game. Now, I have the energy to maybe help somebody else out and give my energy to everyone else.”
So, what is a Millenial to do when they subtract social media time from their daily life? In Ward’s case, he has been able to spend extra time doing homework, practicing in the gym and resting. “You just nap. I nap or get in the gym or do some extra homework or something. It’s helped me get ready for the week a bit,” Ward said of his newfound free time. “I try to get my homework done during the week, but if I do procrastinate, there is that extra time where I don’t have anything to do. It’s all about doing something productive whether that be cleaning my room or anything like that.”
In the scope of basketball, Ward has only seen positive payoffs from the lack of social media. The Tampa, Florida, native has shifted his entire focus to constantly improving his game. This has only yielded positive results for Ward, who is enjoying his best season to date. Currently, Ward is averaging 16.1 points and seven rebounds per game. Both of those marks are in the top ten in the Summit League heading into the conference tournament. Ward is also shooting a staggering 54 percent from the field, also in the top ten in the conference. He has scored in double figures 25 times this season, including 10 games of scoring 20 points or more. Ward has scored in double figures in all but one conference game this season.
Much of this is thanks to Ward’s renewed focus on the game. However, Ward’s confidence has also been elevated to near astronomical levels. Summit League defenders are having a hard time defending Ward consistently. It seems every match-up he draws is in his favor. His long frame is too much for smaller defenders, but his length and quickness make him a problem for bigger defenders as well. That has created a perfect offensive storm for the senior.
“Over the past couple of months, I have gained a lot of confidence. That comes from my teammates and when you have confidence in yourself and your teammates have confidence in you, it can boost your level of play. I think that is what has been going on, I’ve been having a lot of confidence and a lot of success,” Ward said. “Even if the shots are not falling, it’s carrying over into something else whether that be rebounding or assists. It’s coming from a lot of confidence and a lot of extra time in the gym.”
Heading into NDSU’s first-round game with Denver, Ward feels the team’s mindset is one of hunger. While the Bison are the number one seed, Ward notes that this team knows how it feels to have their backs against the wall. Last year’s Summit League Tournament is a prime example.
“We know what it feels like to not have anything to lose. We know what it is like for another team to have their back against the wall. We know what they don’t want to happen and we know what we don’t want to happen. We’re focusing on playing to win and not playing not to lose,” Ward said. “We’ll have to make sure we’re on our toes and hammering all those small details. A lot of people can get caught up in the one and eight-seed game, but we have to treat it like another basketball game and enjoy the opportunity to play.”
Just because Denver is the lowest seed in the tournament does not mean the Bison are taking them lightly. Ward says NDSU must be ready to counterpunch if the Pioneers heat up offensively, which they are more than capable of doing. “Take away their key players. It’s really about guarding your yard with that team. They have so much talent and when they get hot, they really do get hot,” Ward said of Denver and NDSU’s strategy heading into the contest. “When they go for those punches, we have to maintain, stay poised and punch back. It’s all about weathering those storms this time of year.”
Tyson Ward has shifted his priorities around in his senior season. By ridding his free time of social media, the senior has remained focus on the goal at hand and that is a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Throughout this process, Ward has also turned in a season that landed him on the All-Summit League First Team.
That being said, he is looking forward to hopping back on social media after the season. “As soon as the season is over, I’m getting right back on that. I feel like I’ve been out of the loop a little bit,” he said.
However, the Bison are hoping Ward’s reemergence on social media happens later rather than sooner. If it means a punched ticket to the NCAA Tournament, Tyson Ward will certainly oblige.