06/10/2015 12:53 PM
Printed with Permission from VYPE
Teaching life skills through basketball is the mission for TJ Ford Elite.
Run by Ford himself, the former University of Texas standout wants to instruct his kids on the right way to do things as they progress within the game they love.
“I have had the program since I got drafted, really,” Ford said. “It’s all about mentoring these kids; it’s more than basketball.”
Ford was selected with the eighth pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, where he started his career. He also played for the Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, and the San Antonio Spurs during his NBA career.
Playing under a variety successful coaches with different styles allowed TJ Ford Elite to grow. Having an NBA veteran leading the way also helps the program to build great relationships in the grassroots community.
“We surround the kids with good guys,” Ford said. “Guys like Ronnie Courtney from Fort Bend Bush, Daniel Ewing, and Brett Nixon, too.
“We also have coaches that are in the stock market business. Successful men in all walks of life.”
Currently, TJ Ford Elite has eight teams.
He also has plenty of talent within the program.
“We have a lot of young athletes who will play Division I basketball,” Ford said. “We have guys from different classes. Kids like Jalen Preston from Manvel, Remy Minor at Bush, Emmanuel White, Sean Thomas, Jalen Carter, and we have over a 100 kids.”
Over the past three years, a dozen TJ Ford Elite players received scholarships to play major college ball.
With a namebrand and a history of success the entirety of the Houston area has proven fertile recruiting grounds for Ford and his team.
The selection process starts with training camps.
“We have sessions that we start during school year and ends towards February,” Ford said. “Most kids come from these training sessions.”
Based off the personnel and the game match-up, the style of play will be adjusted accordingly to what fits each group the best.
“Every team is different,” Ford said. “It matters about the what we have and what we are going against. We just want the kids to work hard. Getting them playing on a high level everyday as a player and a team. Honestly everything is just real life lessons.”
The importance of giving back towards the community is stressed by Ford’s team. Achieving the right things character wise through community service, documents a team who cares about more than basketball.
“We have a mentor and leadership program,” Ford said. “Academic programs are the most importance piece though.
“Each kid has to have the academic standards up to par. Two times a week they go to academic classes for 30-45 minutes before practice. We have a combine camp called ‘Never Give Up.’ It provides good structure and a system to give them the most basketball knowledge in a two-day period.”
The next stop is June 11th at The Woodlands Legends. It is an all-day event going from 9am-5pm.
The camp gives kids exposure with the recruiting service.
Alfio Veasey – the Director of Operations – makes sure the kids are on top of their grades because without that, basketball would not be in the picture.
“I’m more of the academic person and TJ is more of the athletic standpoint,” Veasey said. “You’re only going to be at some point for so long.
“Remy Minor has a great story. If this kid makes the NBA, he is the person to have ESPN 30 for 30 features on him. Great kid who looked up to TJ Ford and to see his work ethic lead on the court is phenomenal.”
Playing the game the right way is what Ford and his staff stress the most. With his NBA experience the players have shown more willing to buy in.
“It is just a matter of us teaching the kids the correct way of playing and showing what they are capable of,” Ford said. “It is a team concept. We are taking everything with the staff experience and providing it to the kids. Our practices prepare these kids with the strength and conditioning, as well as the academic aspects to prepare for college. We do college and NBA drills.”
At the end of the day, Ford wants his kids to be equipped for the next level. And he makes sure to get them in front of plenty of evaluators.
TJ Ford Elite has an Elite 11 finale in Austin for ages 14-17 at Round Rock Sports Center on July 10-12.
“We give them the opportunity to be in front of college coaches and get exposure,” Ford said. “It is a lot of positivity being in the program. That is the biggest thing grassroots basketball provides.”
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