Published: Nov 10, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 11, 2012 02:08 PM
In honor of UNC mens basketball great Phil Ford being inducted in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on November 18, 2012
Phil Ford ran the point guard position the way God intended.
At least thats the way I saw it back in the winter of 1977 when, as an 11-year-old girl, I became a Carolina basketball fan.
I had happened upon a game one night that winter and had totally fallen for the boys in Carolina Blue. I had very quickly become a true believer in everything Carolina and felt with religious fervor that the bumper sticker was true: If God is not a Tar Heel, why is the sky Carolina Blue? Who could argue that logic?
I was totally smitten with pretty much every single player. I knew everything about them in only the way a kid does their hometowns, their favorite books, their high school coaches. While I was particularly in love with both Mike OKoren and Phil Ford, Ford had caused me not just to fall for him, but for basketball and the point guard position. He had total control of each game, particularly when his left hand went up, thumb bended in, signaling the Four Corners offense. He was a great shooter with an amazing stroke but could place a pass in angles not seen by the human eye. He was magical.
When I began playing basketball in school that next year, I did everything to emulate his game. I collected articles and made a scrapbook. I learned when to call timeouts. And I decided I had to meet him.
In the summer of 79 I headed down to Chapel Hill from my hometown of Asheville for the Carolina Basketball Camp. When my parents dropped my cousin Dawn and me off at Granville Towers and got us settled in, I was ready. I had heard Granville Towers was the place to see some of the mens players, and so my eyes were always wide and searching for them. Almost passed out
At 3:30 each day on the Granville outside courts, one of the Carolina mens players would hold a clinic for the entire camp. When it was announced that Phil Ford would be leading one of them, I about passed out. He, the great point guard, was going to be teaching us about basketball!
There were, I am guessing, about 300 campers, ages 9 to 18. When we got to the court, I made sure I sat in the front row. He was going to put on a shooting clinic. As he extolled the importance of practicing your shot over and over, he told us one of the best ways to practice shooting off the pass, as opposed to off the dribble, was to have a partner with you who would rebound the ball and zip the pass right back to you so you could shoot it right away.
I was hanging on his every word, when he looked straight at my earnest, glasses wearing, adoring face and said, Would you like to be my rebounder and demonstrate this with me?
He had chosen me. Me! I could not believe my good fortune. Somehow, in my stunned and nervous stupor, I stood up, got under the basket, and began rebounding the great Phil Fords shots, all of which I recall he drained. From my passes. I remember wanting to be perfect for him no bungled rebounds hitting the court, no errant passes. I think I did OK.
When Phil Ford is inducted in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Nov. 18, I will be watching. Because Phil Ford was more than a ball player to me. He helped me find some of the greatest loves of my life basketball and Chapel Hill. He taught me how to play ball, mostly by television, but one special day in person.
Congratulations, Mr. Ford, and on behalf of Tar Heel nation, thank you for all you gave us. Thank you for showing us all how God intended the point to be run. And thank you for including me in it, a bespectacled, adoring 13-year-old, for a golden, unforgettable moment.
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