Derrian Ford at peace with college decision

Derrian Ford accepts a trophy for MVP after his team, Next Page Force, won the Real Deal in the Rock 17U Championship game on Sunday, June 27, 2021.

Feeling comfortable with his college choice and with his AAU career behind him, Arkansas basketball commit Derrian Ford of Magnolia is at peace.

Ford (6-4, 205) has a clear philosophy as he enters his senior season.

“The goal this year is to win a state championship,” Ford said. “I am going to put in the work and play to the best of my ability to help make that happen. I just want to enjoy every day of the school year, work out, play and have fun on the court.”

Ford, whose team’s 53-game winning streak ended in a loss to Morrilton in the Class 4A state tournament semifinals, took an official visit to Arkansas on June 2-4 then committed to the Razorbacks on July 14.

He chose Arkansas over national champion Baylor, Kansas, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and numerous other programs.

Ford, who averaged 23 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists as a junior, had planned to take several official visits, but did not feel the need after visiting Fayetteville.

“It just felt like home,” Ford said. “I just felt like the coaches at Arkansas had my best interests at heart. I’m not saying that other coaches didn’t, but I just felt like Arkansas was the spot I needed to be at.

"I just love Arkansas. It’s a great program, it’s a great city and it’s a great state. Everybody has each other’s back, so it is the place for me.

“I want to be able to represent Arkansas well and to the best of my ability.”

The Razorbacks’ run to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, which featured three in-state freshmen, played a factor in Ford’s decision.

“It helped a lot,” Ford said. “They had the youngest team in the Sweet 16 and that showed me that no matter how young you are that if you put in the hard work in practice and perform that you are going to be out there on the court during games.

“I want to be able to play at a high level like that, help us win and then be able to reach my goal of making it to the NBA after college.”

In addition to playing AAU basketball this spring and summer, Ford also got the chance to train with former Arkansas and NBA star Joe Johnson.

Johnson was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 10th pick of the 2001 NBA Draft. He scored 20,456 career points, which is 44th all-time in NBA history, and played 18 years in the league.

Johnson has recently found success playing in the Big 3 Tournament, which features many former pro players.

“I was just watching Joe (last weekend) and everything that he was doing in the Big 3 in the last game, he used all those same moves and taught them to me when we were working out in Little Rock,” Ford said. “It was just amazing to see how he puts those to work in a game.

“He has become one of my favorite players, not just because I worked out with him, but because of the way he plays the game. He is so smooth and has a great pace of play and how he controls the tempo. It’s like he just does everything at the right time and with the right move.”

Ford started his AAU campaign with Houston Hoops, a team he had played with the last couple of years.

He decided to just concentrate on development, including the training with Johnson, but did join Next Page Force for a tournament.

“I played with Next Page Force and it was a great tournament when I was able to play with them,” Ford said. “It is a great organization with some great players and great coaches and it was just a great opportunity.

“After my last tournament with them in Birmingham, Alabama, I felt like I had performed at the level I needed to and I felt like it was time for me to make a decision and after that.

“I didn’t play any more AAU after that, talked to the coaches and just decided to develop my body and focus on this next (high school) season and then the next level.”

Ford is one of three Arkansas 2022 commits along with Morrilton small forward Joseph Pinion (6-6, 180) and Alabama prep star Barry Dunning (6-5, 205).

Arkansas is also recruiting two of the nation’s best in North Little Rock forward Kel’el Ware (7-0, 220) and Sylvan Hills guard Nick Smith (6-5, 180), who is reportedly transferring to North Little Rock.

Ware and Ford took their official visits to Arkansas on the same weekend.

“Kel’el Ware and Nick Smith have great talent and are amazing players and I am going to be doing all I can to help get them,” Ford said. “I wish all the success to both of them. I hope we will be able to get them.

"I know that Arkansas would love to have them and I would love to have them.”