Going, Going...Ford Reported Heading For NBA

All-America point guard <B>T.J. Ford </B>will make himself available for the NBA Draft, the <I>Associated Press </I>reported late Tuesday night.

The story quickly became a hot, national news item after Houston T.V. station KRIV and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram cited sources close to the UT program claiming that Ford would announce his decision to forgo his final two years of eligibility at news conference this week.

The last "official" word that came from the Texas basketball program was 10 days ago when spokesman Scott McConnell reported Ford was going home to Houston for the Easter weekend and likely would hold a news conference later that week. There are reports, unconfirmed as of early Wednesday morning, that UT will schedule a Thursday press conference to announce Ford’s decision.

The "unofficial" word, however, is that he has already informed his coaches and teammates of his decision to go pro. It would represent a complete reversal of what the sophomore said through the end of the hoops season.

During Texas’ final home game of the season, Ford said he was "110 percent certain'' he would return for his junior season before adding, "I can’t wait until I’m a senior." But after winning both the Naismith Award and John R. Wooden Award, designating college basketball's player of the year, Ford began to imply that he might declare himself eligible for the draft.

The thought here is that Ford’s April 16 injury, suffered in a pickup basketball game on the UT campus and requiring four hours at Austin’s St. David’s emergency room, went a long way toward swaying his decision.

While UT officials would not release details, eyewitness reported that Ford lay motionless for nearly an hour until an ambulance arrived. Ford was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2001, a condition having to do with the narrowing of the vertebral channel through which the spinal chord runs. While never disclosed that the condition was a factor in Ford’s injury (which he later described as "a spill"), it obviously has the potential to torpedo a career if not dehabilitate an individual’s physical health.

Prior to the injury, I hoped and believed Ford would remain for one more year at the Forty Acres (and never bought into the "can’t wait until I’m a senior" rhetoric). But the April 16 incident had to been a wake-up call: if you are going to risk aggravating a spinal condition, you ought to secure your future by making millions now than running the same risk against, say, the Aggies.

Ford led Texas in scoring (15.0 points) and assists (7.7). He was the first freshman to lead the nation in assists as a freshman while his 527 assists ranks second on Texas' career list.

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