The following is the seventh in an 11-part series featuring members of the 2019 class of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Anniston High School longtime boys’ basketball coach Schuessler Ware had a special way with kids. And he had an even more extraordinary way with those considered difficult kids.
Now retired, Ware used that talent to mold numerous youngsters into successful adults by teaching them how to succeed. His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Ware is being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame at its March 18 banquet at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. He is one of 11 in the Class of 2019.
A native of Anniston, Ware graduated from Anniston High School in 1974 and Talladega College in 1978. He earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Jacksonville State. Following his graduation from college, Ware returned to his alma mater to begin his teaching and coaching career. He remained there throughout his more than 30-year career.
Ware became head basketball coach in 1997, a position he held for the next 19 years. His teams were 420-168 during that span with two state championships and three other trips to the semifinals of the state tournament. The Bulldogs also won eight county championships, five region titles and 13 area titles. He was named Calhoun County Coach of the Year nine times and received State Coach of the Year honors in both Class 4A and Class 5A.
Ware’s teams had 12 seasons of 20 or more wins and only one losing season (13-16) in his head-coaching career.
Writing in support of Ware’s Hall of Fame nomination, Anniston City Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt said, “Coach Ware is known throughout the state of Alabama as the winningest (boys’ basketball) coach in Anniston High School’s history. What many people do not know is that the foundation for his success as a head basketball coach was laid with years of hard work. He and I worked together as basketball and football coaches for Anniston Middle School and Anniston High School, and I learned a lot from him as he transitioned from assistant to head coach. One of the first things I learned from him is that winning does not happen by chance. It is the result of much preparation.”
Douthitt said Ware was born to be a motivating force for student-athletes.
“His practices and games were managed in such a way his players understood that they had to give 110 percent of themselves or be relegated to the end of the bench. Coach Ware was an expert at teaching the fundamentals of the game of basketball, and that is what made him successful. Coaches and opposing players would often watch in amazement as Coach Ware’s players moved the basketball the full length of the court without one dribble. His teams were more defensive than offensive, and most opposing coaches that had to deal with Coach Ware’s version of the 1-3-1 defense knew they could not win and only wanted to make the score respectable.”
The superintendent also described Ware as a difference maker in young folks’ lives – especially those who needed the nurturing most.
“During his career, Coach Ware transformed some of the most difficult young adults into winners, Douthitt said. “He made sure they were properly equipped for the game that we call ‘life.’ Coach Ware protected many Anniston youths from the epidemic known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Simply put, his impact on the game of basketball is second to his impact on the lives of the student-athletes he served in the Anniston community.”
Marcus Perry, a former college and professional player, attributed much of his success to the lessons he learned from Ware.
“I met Coach Ware my freshman year at Anniston High School in 1998,” Perry said. “I can recall going to Coach Ware and letting him know that I wanted to play varsity right out of the gate. He told me to keep working on my game, and that I had guys ahead of me. I ended up playing on the freshman team, where I dominated in all facets of the game. I recall staying in the gym late and working on my game.
“Coach Ware moved me up on the varsity for the 1999-2000 school year. I didn’t play much that year, which really frustrated me at the time, but it taught me patience and perseverance. Those were things I struggled with at first. Little did I know, those things would prepare me for the career I have had.”
After a junior-year injury, Perry said he became discouraged, let his grades slip and failed to pass the graduation exam. No colleges seemed interested in him.
“I was frustrated and wanted to give up. I remember Coach Ware calling me into his office and talking with me. He told me that everything happened for a reason, and I just have to believe that God had a plan for my life. He encouraged me to keep pressing toward my goal and to study harder than I ever have before. He helped me get tutoring that summer so I would pass the test when it came time to take it again. I did pass the exam, and shortly after that I was contacted by a close friend of Coach Ware, Ron Radford from Southern Union Community College.”
Perry went on to become a Junior College All-American and earned a scholarship to the University of Nebraska. From there, he played professionally in Europe.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this if it wasn’t for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my family, Coach Ware and my other mentor, Steven Folks. There were a lot of people who played a major role in my success,” Perry said.
Ware, despite his retirement, still serves the Anniston community. He is a board member of the Presbyterian Westminster Apartments and a member and elder of First Presbyterian Church.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama High School Athletic Association website.