Liam Ward (above) is one of two Great Valley seniors who will be continuing his career at Guilford (N.C.) College. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Tyler Sandora (@tyler_sandora)
After Liam Ward sent his junior season highlights to the coaches at Guilford College (N.C.) -- where his older sister played both volleyball and softball -- they responded with an invitation to its elite recruit camp at the conclusion of the summer.
He then immediately texted his best friend and teammate Matt Porreca to fill him in on the news, only to find out Porreca was already scheduled to go down to the same camp. Porreca had always envisioned studying down south, and knew about Guilford through Ward’s sister.
“I was a little mad,” Ward said. “I told him he can’t keep secrets from me.”
The two carpooled down to Greensboro, N.C. for the camp, and immediately fell in love. They claim they played so well that in their last scrimmage of the camp, they played on the same team and scored all of the team’s points except for three.
When they came home, they knew that had both found their future school. On January 13, both Porreca and Ward committed to Guilford.
“I knew it would be perfect,” Ward said, “I knew it right then I think.”
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Porreca added.
Their friendship dates all the way to the first day of kindergarten, when they were in the same class. In middle school, they said, the two were split up in the rec league because kids who played on the travel-team weren’t allowed play together on the same team. They’ve kept us the relationship now all the way to high school, and soon off to college.
Sure, they fight like teenage friends do, but they always make up for it quickly.
“Oh, they’re competitive with each other,” Great Valley head coach Paul Girone said. “They’re always talking smack with each other.”
Every day after practice for as long as they can remember, the duo plays one-on-one; winner gets bragging rights for the next day in school.
“It’s whoever wins that night,” Porreca said. “And the next day we’ll keep in in their ear and say who won last night.”
Although they have different strengths on the court, Porreca and Ward have learned how to combine them and effectively play with each other.
Porreca, a 5-foot-10, 140 pound guard, will run the show offensively. Even though he doesn’t score a ton, he is a talented distributor and play caller. He’s got a solid handle, and is a coach's dream when it comes to decision making.
Ward on the other hand is a lanky 6-4 scoring guard who can fill it up in bunches. He’s grown a bit over the last year or so, and his game has made numerous improvements as well.
“He knows when I’m hot and when to feed me,” Ward said. “When I’m trailing I don’t have to say a word, he knows I’m there. The chemistry has built up over time. I need someone who can pass and dribble like he can. I’m a decent ball handler but it’s nice to have someone who can do it for me so I can get shots up.”
The coaches at Guilford liked what they saw immediately after the camp. Guilford was the only school to seriously recruit Ward, and the only school to reach out to Porreca.
Besides the fact that he could continue playing with his best friend, Ward also liked the idea of a college in the south. He’s been going on family vacations to the Outer Banks in North Carolina every summer since he was six months old, and is an avid golfer.
Last year, Guilford finished with a record of 24-6 -- its first 20-win season since 2010 -- and was the champion of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. The Quakers made it to the second round of the D-III NCAA tournament before losing to Marietta (Ga.).
With a 57-41 win over Sun Valley (10-7, 5-5) on Thursday night, the Patriots (13-5, 8-1) are now first in the Ches-Mont American Division and sixth in unofficial District One 5A rankings. Ward led Great Valley with 14 points, and Porreca added nine.
Ward and Porreca are hoping to lead the Patriots back to Temple University for the district semifinals for the second straight year.
After that, they couldn’t be happier with what the future holds.
“It’s a dream come true,” Ward said. “It’s a lot of fun. To keep it going, and the chemistry is built up. Honestly I think it’s a perfect match. Everyone in this situation is happy and everyone is excited for the future.”