From leading his high school team to two state basketball titles to being picked eighth in the 2003 NBA draft, TJ Ford is a Texas basketball legend. While playing college basketball at the University of Texas at Austin, Ford became the first freshman player in NCAA history to lead the nation in assists per game, won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors, the Naismith College Player of the Year Award & the John R. Wooden Player of the Year Award and was named Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated. His No. 11 jersey was retired in 2004, making him the fourth University of Texas athlete and the first in Longhorn basketball to receive that honor.
Ford will be sharing lessons from his entire journey at the TJ Ford Basketball Invitational, March 20-22, and Elite 11, April 10-12, both in Round Rock, Texas.
“We’re looking to bring grassroots sports to Central Texas; the area deserves good basketball, but we’ll also be teaching kids life skills through the sport,” Ford says. “Plus, [Austin and Round Rock] are beautiful, and we want everyone to know how great it is here!”
TJ Ford Basketball events help prepare students for college-level ball, touching on all aspects of walking into an arena – media interviews, photography and more – to help players improve their game and block out distractions.
The Invitational is structured as a bracket-style tournament for Texas students, while the Elite 11 will have college coaches interested in recruiting players from all over the country. Ford and his team want to put a spotlight on students, especially local ones, by providing them the opportunity to participate in a major tournament, without having to travel too far.
“Austin is a unique place to me – I consider it home. And it’s not just about football, like everyone thinks Texas is,” Ford states. “I’m looking forward to giving some of these kids the same experience I had and getting them accustomed to playing in these environments.”
With personal mentors such as Michael Jordan, Ford understands that even though every aspiring athlete may not go on to play in the NBA or WNBA, he or she can still get far with good character and focused goals – the same lessons he often shares with his own children.
“My oldest lived in every city I played in, and he saw me get hurt on multiple occasions, and he had to take care of me on multiple occasions,” Ford says. “He gets it, but my daughter is more into girly-girl things; I think my youngest will be into basketball and football…They definitely have to play some sport!”
When asked what can be expected from Ford going forward, he says he’s focusing on finishing up his education degree at UT right now but definitely wants to create more programs, to give kids and the community more good basketball through his foundation.
“I established a lot of memories at UT, so it’s cool to be back as a student – Most people don’t even know who I am!” Ford laughs. “But everyone is here to achieve a goal, and it’s nice to be around other students who are chasing after something.”
By being truthful about his experiences – the positive, the negative and how he overcame – Ford looks forward to mentoring attendees at the upcoming Round Rock events – as well as some good basketball!
Find more information through Ford’s website, athttp://www.tjfordbasketball.com.prod.sportngin.com/home.