Ford ecstatic about training with former Arkansas star

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, May 13, 2021
Magnolia guard Derrian Ford (20) is shown during a game March 6, 2020, in Farmington.
Magnolia guard Derrian Ford (20) is shown during a game March 6, 2020, in Farmington.

It’s not often that a former seven-time NBA All-Star reaches out to a one of the nation’s best high school players, but that’s exactly what happened to Magnolia junior Derrian Ford.

Ford (6-4, 190 pounds), ranked 42nd nationally by ESPN and scheduled to take an official visit to Arkansas on June 4-6, was floored when he heard former Razorback Joe Johnson was interested in training him.

Johnson, former star at Arkansas, was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 10th pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, and scored 20,456 points, which is 44th all-time in NBA history.

“He reached out to my dad (Darnell) and I was shocked – Joe Johnson wants to work out with me?” Ford said. “I was happy and really didn’t believe my dad for awhile.

“I talked to him (Johnson) on the phone after that and he said he was just ready to put in some run with me and I said, ‘I am going to soak it all in, learn from him and become a better player and just try to make my dream (of playing the NBA) come true.”

Ford is coming off a junior season that ended with a Class 4A state tournament semifinal loss to Morrilton and Razorback junior pledge Joseph Pinion (6-6, 180).

It ended a 53-game winning streak and also ended the quest for a third straight state title.

Ford and his family made the decision to take the summer off from AAU play with the Houston Hoops to take advantage of the opportunity to work with Johnson.

“It was a family decision and we just took a leap of faith,” Ford said. “We are looking at both developing my game, but also resting my body while still working out.

“I feel like in just this last few days I have gotten better and I think the training with Joe Johnson, he will just develop my game even more. The chance to get a lot of experience from a great former NBA player, I am just going to soak it all in. I just can’t wait for that opportunity to happen.”

Ford is also excited to take his official visit to Arkansas after a year of doing virtual meetings with Razorback head coach Eric Musselman and his staff because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Me and my family are excited to go up there to Arkansas and build an even better relationship with the coaches,” Ford said. “It will be great to get to actually be there with them physically face-to-face instead of just doing the virtual meetings.

“I will get a chance to see what the actual campus is like and get to stay up there for a few days. It will just give me a great feel for actually will be going on if I decide to go there.”

Ford has offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Kansas, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas Tech, Houston, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Rice and McNeese State.

“No sir, I have not set up any other visits besides Arkansas,” Ford said. “This is my only one right now.”

Ford does not have a timetable for his decision.

“It is just going to be a feel situation and a talking with my family situation,” Ford said.

Arkansas’ run to the Elite Eight this season with three freshmen that were former in-state stars sparked Ford’s interest in the Razorbacks.

“I saw a lot of strength and success from the coaches and the freshmen and the coaches showed me that if you put in the work – no matter what age or class you are - on and off the court that you will play,” Ford said.

“They showed all the people around the country that they can play with anybody – Baylor, Texas, Auburn, Gonzaga Kentucky, Duke, whoever.”

Ford understands what playing for Musselman and the Razorbacks would be like.

“I think the thing I have seen is that I have found the right relationship with the coaches, how I am going to be able to play my game in their system and their will to win,” Ford said. “I love to win and I will do anything to win.

“Watching them, they play fast and it seem like they get to play free within the system. Coach Muss has a lot of energy and it just seems like he has a lot of fun with them on and off the court.

“They are always doing stuff as a team and were doing that before the season. It seems like he loves doing that and I love seeing that.”

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