A Will to Win

It all started with a boy, his father and a pickup game of basketball.

The boy was somewhat undersized, but had developed a love for basketball. So his father, always willing, would entertain his son in one-on-one. Of course, the boy's efforts were futile. His father was bigger, stronger and more polished in a game he had played far longer than his son. But his son loved the competition, so they played.

Each game ended the same in those early years. The boy put all he had into winning, his father fully aware of what the final outcome would eventually be. Still, the boy competed. He fought. Because the boy, striving to be the best, refused to succumb to failure – no matter the inevitability.

As days turned to months and months to years, the boy and his father grew older. Even so, those pickup basketball games continued, even if the father was more apprehensive in meeting his son on the hardwood, considering the boy's growth and determined focus of becoming the best. The boy had practiced. He was better. Again, the boy lived to win. Failure, to the boy, was never an option.

In one of the few final games, after countless hours and many more of these same type games, the boy was besting his father. It was his turn now. The final outcome, now on a more level playing field, was up for grabs. The boy battled and battled, his father coming to grips with a bittersweet reality.

His son was better. That much was proven in the final score.

There were fewer games after that, mainly because the father avoided them. The boy carried on in his newfound career in basketball. All the while, the boy joked with his father, never allowing the once unbeatable opponent, his father, to forget.

Fast forward to today and the boy is all grown up. He is playing point guard for Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference, nearing 2,000 points and 400 assists for his career. If he is able to reach those numbers, he would become just the fourth player in conference history to do so.

The boy is better known as Chris Warren.

"I always had my times where I'd beat him," Warren said, recalling those pickup games with his father.

Chris Warren

"We'd always run it back, then he'd beat me. He'd go into the house not wanting to play me anymore. I used to be outside just playing, hoping he'd come back outside. He never came back outside."

Warren said his unparalleled competitive nature was developed through the friendly rivalry with his father, Charles. He laughs looking back, jokingly referring to his father as a player who "used to always cheat" in those pickup games.

"My dad made me like this," Warren, drenched in sweat following an afternoon practice in late December, said. "Every time I lose, something's wrong. I just have to win."

Junior forward Terrance Henry, Warren's roommate, can vouch for that. Henry said, without hesitation, Warren is the most competitive person he has ever been around. He has to win in anything he does, according to Henry, be it in a foot race or video games.

"All the time, he talks about pride. ‘My pride won't let me lose.' That's all he says all the time," Henry said. "It's how he came up."

Warren was born and raised in Orlando, Fla. He played his high school ball at Dr. Phillips High School, where he averaged 23.9 points, 7.0 assists, 4.5 steals and 4.0 rebounds a game as a senior, and was twice named Metro Conference Player of the Year.

More often than not, he was the smallest player on the court. In the Ole Miss media guide, Warren is generously listed at 5-foot-10, 168 pounds. Though he would never admit it, he was probably a little smaller in high school.

But his lack of size didn't deter him from leading his team to the Class 6A state championship game. Warren posted 38 points in a loss to Pompano Bay.

"Without that intense desire to be successful, he's certainly not the player we've become accustomed to – an All-SEC guard," his head coach, Andy Kennedy, said. "He's a special kid."

Chris Warren

Warren signed with Ole Miss in the recruiting class of 2006, Kennedy's first at Ole Miss.

He was rated a three-star point guard by Scout.com. Outside of Ole Miss, he held offers from mostly mid-majors. His finalists were Ole Miss, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth.

He arrived at Ole Miss with little fanfare. He was the lesser-ranked player compared to fellow signee and teammate Trevor Gaskins. He and Gaskins would compete for the starting job vacated by Todd Abernethy.

Again, Warren lives to win. Winning is what drives him. Of course the job would be his. The alternative, losing, was never an option.

So he did as he had always done. He won. He followed with a school-record 103 3-pointers and a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team. He remains the only player in program history with over 100 3s in a season. His team finished with 24 wins and an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament Final Four.

"The biggest thing is he brings a maturity to his approach in that he's consistent. That's what separates him. You're going to get a consistent effort every time Chris laces it up," Kennedy said. "I can never remember, as a staff, us coming off the floor saying, ‘Chris just didn't bring it today.'

"It's a direct reflection of his upbringing. He comes from a super family – two blue-collar, hard-working parents. I think it was ingrained in him at an early age. They still coach him. After all the accolades and all the things he's accomplished, they're still demanding more, as are we. I think that's one of the reasons he's the way he is."

Warren, despite playing in only 11 games as a sophomore due to a season-ending injury, has already surpassed 1,500 points. He's one of just 11 players in school history to reach the 1,500-point plateau.

He ranks 10th in career points. He currently leads the team and is ranked fourth in the conference in scoring average, third in assists and second in free-throw percentage. At his current pace, Warren will set the Ole Miss record for most career 3-pointers around mid-season. With 256, he needs 22 to match Aaron Harper's record of 278.

Chris Warren

"It's just a part of me, I guess," Warren said of his need to achieve.

"I have a problem with losing in anything I do. I'm a sore loser. Maybe that's a good thing. Sometimes that can be a bad thing. I just love to win."

But he hasn't won enough over his Ole Miss career. He'll say as much.

Not once in his four-year career has Ole Miss made the NCAA Tournament field. He would gladly give back all of his individual accomplishments for one chance at a national championship.

"It gets at me," he said. "It motivates me. This is my last year. I can't fall short. I'm starving."

Because despite his desire to be the best there is, Warren is a team player. If the team wins, he wins. Wins are how he measures success. They're why he never shies away from the crucial, game-winning shot. They're why he never loses hope; why he always feels, despite the little time left on the clock or the deficit, his team has a chance to win.

"When we're at that point, it's always in my mind that we need a big play, a big shot," Warren said of key moments in games. "I'm going to make a big shot, and then I'll just go on about my business like it's natural. I expect to hit a big shot. I get mad if I miss."

He has to win. Winning is what drives him. It's a trait developed by a boy through his father in a pickup game of basketball.

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