Jurick has been a pleasant surprise since arriving from Chattanooga State, where he was a second-team junior college All-American. The center brings much needed size to a smallish Cowboy frontcourt at 6-foot-11, 270-pounds, but Jurick's impact has come in ways that are harder to measure.
"He's played hard and he's done everything we've asked him to do," he said. "If you ask all our players, ‘Who is just the ultimate teammate?' They would say Philip. Just everything about him makes him the ultimate teammate. He'll do whatever we ask him to do to help our team win; go screen, rebound or whatever it is; he's going to do it."
Jurick has been praised for having a team-first attitude and he should make his presence felt in the Cowboys' lineup as a defensive enforcer.
He was named the junior college defensive player of the year after nearly averaging a triple double with 10.5 points, 12.6 rebounds and 9.5 blocks per game. His blocks-per-game average led the nation and his rebounding average ranked second. But in spite of his impressive numbers, a lot of big schools weren't interested in him because of perceived poor work ethic.
Ford said he has seen nothing of the kind.
"Philip Jurick is obviously a big presence. He's done a great job; he's probably been the biggest surprise as far as how he's just adapted and how hard he's played because that was the thing we kept hearing about him," Ford said. "We heard, ‘Oh, he's not going to play hard,' and all those things but it's been 100 percent the exact opposite of that."
Ford said he expects big things from the junior on the defensive end and in rebounding but his offensive game is a work in progress.
"He brings a presence that we haven't had," Ford said. "He's somebody who can protect the basket. I think he's going to learn how to score, right now he won't really be a scoring option but he will learn. We're asking him to do things right now that he hasn't really ever been asked to do and we saw that from day one in individual workouts.
"I'm sure he was always just told to go stand underneath the basket and he was good at it; he averaged almost a triple-double. But, as we ask all our players to do, he's going to have to step out on the perimeter and set screens and reverse the ball and do some things out of our plays and sets to play how we want to play."
Jurick chose the Cowboys over offers from West Virginia, Cincinnati and Southern Miss and he will help replace the loss of Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim in the post. Jurick originally signed with Tennessee out of high school and redshirted his freshman season in Knoxville before transferring to Chattanooga State.
Ford has yet to settle on a starting lineup for the coming season but he said he is focused on returning to an up-tempo style that will require the team to go nine or 10 men deep. Jurick will factor into the big men rotation of Michael Cobbins, LeBryan Nash and Marek Soucek.
While his defensive prowess is something that should excite Cowboy fans, his work ethic and team mentality has his coach believing that he can develop into a complete big man who will give the Cowboys perhaps the most consistent, legitimate center in the Ford era.
"He's just been one of the most coachable young men I've been around," he said. "It's just been a really pleasant surprise. It's been fun to work with him and he'll make an impact for sure."