PALMETTO -- It was the toughest winter of Alyssa Ward's life.
"I was heart-broken. I felt devastated," the recent Palmetto High graduate said.
Ward's life was basketball and unexpectedly it was taken away from her. She was on the varsity as a freshman and the Tigers starting point guard her sophomore and junior years.
Last fall, Ward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and needed surgery. Her season was over before it started.
"I sat on the bench all year and felt like everyone had given up on me," Ward recalled
Palmetto head girls basketball coach Robert Kelly was one person who didn't. He promised Ward he would do everything possible to get her a scholarship and kept his word.
"She is a talent and coaches needed to see that. We sent out tape to a lot of schools hoping something would happen and this spring we started to get some responses," Kelly said.
Last week Ward received a phone call from Kate Henderson, the new head women's basketball coach at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.
It's an NCAA Division II school that few people outside of Texas heard about. But the school is moving up to Division I and will play in the Southland Conference in 2014-15. They needed to upgrade their roster and the five-foot-eight Ward seemed a perfect person to build an offense around.
"I signed the letter-of-intent today (Tuesday) and will be faxing it tomorrow," Ward said. "I feel like I am getting a second chance on life. She told me I would be her point guard. I didn't see a scholarship coming at all. I thought everyone had forgotten about me."
Kelly said Henderson and other coaches saw the talent Ward possessed and other schools started showing interest late this spring.
"I talked to coach Henderson and she liked everything about Alyssa," Kelly said. "She was impressed with her court awareness and ability to run an offense and the way she moved up and down the court. They want to use her as a point guard. I just kept telling Alyssa to be patient and things would work out. She is a very talented player and led our team in scoring as a junior."
As a junior, Ward was the catalyst for one of the best girls' basketball teams in school history sparking the Tigers to a 22-3 record while also leading the team in assists and being a defensive stalwart.