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Travis Ford back in Rupp, scouting not shooting

March 14, 2018 FieldsColumn


BY MIKE FIELDS (March 14, 2018)

Travis Ford has accomplished a lot in his basketball career, as a player and a coach.

He was a deadly three-pointer shooter for Kentucky in the early 1990s. He’s coached at EKU, Massachusetts, Oklahoma State and St. Louis, winning more than 300 games and taking 8 teams to the NCAA Tournament.

But Ford still considers his high school days at Madisonville, when he helped the Maroons reach the Sweet 16 three years in a row, as a career highlight.

Travis Ford hit 7 of 9 three-pointers and scored 39 points for Madisonville in a win over Prestonsburg in the 1989 Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena. (Courier-Journal photo)

“It’s still one of the biggest deals, one of the greatest things, be it coaching or playing, that I enjoyed in basketball,” Ford said Wednesday afternoon as he took in the 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena.

Ford, who just finished his second season at St. Louis, has a strong interest in this year’s state tournament. John Hardin star Mickey Pearson, who has signed with the Billikens, was playing against Pikeville last night in Rupp.

“I love his versatility,” Ford said of the 6-foot-8 Pearson, who’s averaging 25.7 points and 11 rebounds this season.

“His upside his ridiculous. He can play a lot of positions for us, and he fits our system. He’s going to play a lot for us.”

Ford’s own star turn in the Sweet 16 came almost 30 years ago.

As a sophomore in 1987, he and his Madisonville teammates struggled and lost to Owensboro in the first round.

As a junior, he and the Maroons fell to Apollo in overtime in their state tournament opener.

As a senior, Ford finally found his shooting eye in Rupp. He came to town averaging 31 points, and he topped that by scoring 39 in a first-round victory over Prestonsburg. He hit 7 of 9 three-pointers and 8 of 8 free throws.

He followed that with a 26-point performance in the quarterfinals, but Madisonville lost to Marshall County.

Mickey Pearson

Does Ford remember lighting it up like that?

“I’m not good at keeping up with those things,” he said.

For example, when UK’s Wenyen Gabriel hit 7 threes against Alabama last Saturday, he broke Ford’s SEC Tournament record of 6 threes in 1993.

“Somebody reminded me about that, and I had no idea I had (the record),” Ford said.

Eddie Ford, Travis’ dad, is a regular fixture at the Sweet 16. Travis makes it when his schedule allows, and he’s always happy when that happens.

“The other day I was trying to explain to my coaching staff what a big deal it is that Mickey made it to the state tournament,” he said. “There’s nothing like this anywhere else.”


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