"If you become the national player of the year in your sport, that's pretty much what it takes to have your jersey retired," Rick Barnes said. "It's basically saying that you are the best during your time here."
Ford "changed the face of Longhorn basketball," Barnes said.
"He made it okay to come to Texas if you are a Texas (high school) player," Barnes added. "We've had Texas players in the past but no one of his impact. The way he was looked upon at the national level, he could have gone anywhere he wanted to go."
In his first season as a Longhorn, Ford guided the team to the NCAA Sweet 16 while scooping up individual honors, including an honorable mention All-American pick and the consensus Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year. Ford was named the National Freshman of the Year by three media entities, while becoming the first freshman in NCAA history to lead the nation in assists (8.27).
He propelled the Texas program to even greater heights the following year with Texas' first trip to the Final Four since 1947. During the 2002-03 campaign, the Horns garnered the highest NCAA Tournament seed in UT history with a No. 1 spot in the NCAA South Region. Leading the team in scoring (15.0 ppg), assists (7.70 apg), steals (2.00 spg), and minutes played (33.6 mpg), Ford also captured the Wooden and Naismith Awards as college basketball's top player.
Barnes knew Ford would announce for the NBA Draft while flying home with him from California the day after receiving the John R. Wooden Player of the Year Award.
"I asked him, 'Have you thought how much of an impact you've had on The University of Texas?', and he hadn't," Barnes recalled of their in-flight chat. "He's such an unassuming person. He actually said, 'Not really. I just hope I made it better.' I said, 'Well, you definitely made it better.' I said, 'Do you realize you just won the highest award in college basketball? Do you realize you just won the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy?' He said, 'Not really.' But that's him. One of my all time great memories of him is the way he interacted with Coach Wooden (the night before the ceremony). They sat at the head table together. To see those two guys talk for two hours while we were waiting for the dinner, and to see him handle himself in a great situation at a black-tie event was tremendous."
Ford was selected eighth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2003 NBA Draft following his sophomore season.
"I am honored to be such a big part of University of Texas history," Ford said in a press release. "I am excited that The University believes I did so much in such a short time there. It is an honor that I can be proud of for the rest of my life."