UNC legend Ford shoots advice, scores with kids

Jul. 09, 2014 @ 09:22 PM

A 7-year-old once asked the great Phil Ford to show him how to do Allen Iverson’s crossover dribble.

Iverson, who was a fantastic point guard for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, could dribble with both hands — the 7-year-old couldn’t go left, Ford said.

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.

Get a firm handle on the basics first, then maybe there’s room for some of the fancy stuff, Ford explained Wednesday when he dropped by Hoopin’ Eagles for Christ Basketball Camp at Cresset Christian Academy.

Free throws are fundamental. But slam dunking? Not so much, Ford said.

“I had some success as a basketball player, and I didn’t dunk, which is something that most young kids think is the epitome of being a basketball player now,” Ford said.

There’s a book on that.

“It’s called ‘The Kid Who Couldn’t Dunk,’” Ford said.

North Carolina Tar Heels sports chronicler Art Chansky wrote it.

“Mainly, it’s about me not being able to dunk,” Ford said. “When I tell people that, most people think it’s odd that I never dunked a basketball.”

Ford sure could do pretty much everything else with one, like putting it in the basket for 2,290 points at UNC. That ranks him second behind Tyler Hansbrough’s 2,872 for all-time points as a Tar Heel.

In 1978, Ford was voted the best player in college basketball, and the Kansas City Kings made him the No. 2 overall selection in the NBA draft that year. Ford was the NBA’s top rookie. He has been an assistant coach both at UNC and in the NBA.

There he was with the Hoopin’ Eagles, still coaching.

Camp director Bruce White wanted Ford to focus on fundamentals.

“A lot of these kids, they don’t understand the game of basketball anymore,” White said.

White, 30, said he came of age in Durham when the older guys on the basketball court wouldn’t allow him to take any shots if he wasn’t handling business on the defensive end of the floor.

Ford, 58, said he was coming along at UNC when Coach Dean Smith was teasing teams with that four-corners offense of his.

“It’s ancient history now because of the shot clock,” Ford said.

Keep-away is basically what the four-corners was, although it was a brand of basketball that was more effective with guys who could knock down free throws when defenders fouled to stop the clock.

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.

Michael Jordan was blessed with size and strength, but his desire to really learn the game and play it the right way is why he became the best player who ever laced up sneakers, Ford said.

“He is one of the most fundamentally sound basketball players that I’ve seen or know,” Ford said.

Jordan had more money than his Chicago Bulls teammates, more fame, more clout, yet he refused to let any of them outwork him, Ford said.

It takes passion to become really good at something, said Ford, recalling how he and his buddies would play basketball for hours during his boyhood days in Rocky Mount. When it looked like the games were winding down in Ford’s yard with the grassy basketball court, he said he’d go inside his house and return with some cookies that he’d use to bribe his friends so they’d hang around a little longer to squeeze in another game or two.

Hoopin’ Eagles camper Jay Brown, 13, said he’s getting good grades in school. Ford explained that passion could turn those marks into great grades. Brown was feeling it:

“If I had a B, I could work a little bit harder to get an A,” the young man said.

Brown got the point.

Credit Ford with the assist.


Hoopin’ Eagles

Hoopin’ Eagles for Christ Basketball Camp director Bruce White needs help filling 10 book bags for students who otherwise may not have school supplies when the new school year starts. He’s accepting donations at the camp site, Cresset Christian Academy, 3707 Garrett Road. Monetary contributions may be given at hoopineagles4christbasketballcamp.com.