Hogs head coach Eric Musselman has instantaneously changed the direction of the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball program.
Now, with the roster nearly set for the 2020-2021 season, Hog fans are turning their attention to the future. Many are hopeful it will include 2022 4-star shooting guard Derrian Ford, a Magnolia, AR. Ford is a 6’3″ combo guard is a gym rat who is constantly looking to improve his game.
Hard Work Pays Off
Ford’s father, Darnell Ford, and his high school coach, Ben Lindsey, praise him. Lindsey spent seven years as the Paragould High School head coach before joining the Magnolia staff in May of 2019. His years of being a head high school coach came after assistant coaching stints with both the University of Alabama-Birmingham and the University of Missouri. Both collegiate positions were under Mike Anderson, the former Arkansas head coach.
Despite having coached at the collegiate level, Lindsey commends Ford’s drive in a recent interview on “The Morning Rush” radio show: “I’ve coached for a while and seen a lot of players, and I can honestly say he’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever seen. Period.” Ford was quick to credit much of his work ethic to his father, Darnell, pushing him and supporting him every day.
It’s clear that the hard work has been paying off for the soon-to-be junior so far. Not even counting his 19 total DI offers (including Arkansas, Florida and Kansas), Ford has now led Magnolia to back-to-back state championships. The first came in Ford’s freshman season against Mills High School. Derrian won the tournament MVP after leading his squad to the title as a starter. In his sophomore season, Ford led his Panthers to an undefeated regular season before sports were cut short before they could officially reach the championship again. The team was still named as 4A state champs. Of course, Ford’s not done yet. “[The goal is] to win all four,” he says. “Those two felt good but…you just want more. So we’re shooting for that three-peat this year.”
Ford Impressed with Arkansas Culture
As is the case with many highly ranked recruits in upcoming classes, Eric Musselman and company have put Arkansas in a great position to land Ford. The rising high school has his eyes on the bigger picture: playing in the NBA. “I just want a coach that can get me ready for the league and develop me in the right way. If I was to make it to the league, I wouldn’t want to be lost and not know what to do. I want to be ready.” Luckily for Razorback fans, Ford knows at least one coach that can help him achieve that goal.
Ford explained how Arkansas stands out above other colleges: “The coaches, man. Watching the videos and knowing coach Muss coached in the NBA. I just know they can develop players like me to get to the NBA, and that’s a goal of mine to get to the NBA. They just make you feel like family. It’s more than basketball with them.”
Ford also revealed some off the court facilities that drew the attention of his eyes and stomach. “During the tour we went to the cafeteria; that was my favorite part right there! I like to eat. I found out they had the number one nutrition program in the country! I had some chicken Alfredo or something like that…it’s amazing.”
Derrian knows that coach Musselman is capable of preparing players for the NBA. Now he’s excited to see what the Hogs’ hungry newcomers can do on the court this season. “I know Arkansas got a blessing man. Those are some talented players and I know they’re going to do big things for the program. I hope the best for them. I hope they take it all the way. I just pray that [the nation] can see that Arkansas really has some talent.”
Who does Derrian Ford Play Like?
Ford acknowledges not only his tremendous work ethic, but also those that instilled that work ethic in him. Ford says his favorite team growing up was the Los Angeles Lakers. When asked about role models, the shooting guard responded, “My favorite player was Kobe Bryant, I hope his family’s still doing alright. I always watch him and try to break down little pieces of his game.” The Mamba Mentality can be seen in how Ford approaches his craft, that much is clear. In terms of translating to the court however, Kobe isn’t the first player that comes to mind when comparing Ford to those that came before him.
Derrian possesses a unique combination of size, strength, quickness, ball handling, and basketball IQ that allows him to get to his spots on the court in heavy traffic. He doesn’t rely on any one aspect of his game to create offense, but rather an impressive combination of all of these traits. Ford uses his body and footwork to maneuver around defenders at close quarters. This much can be linked back to the Lakers Legend. However, the skillset comparison might end there. Ford doesn’t spend much time with his back to the basket or in true iso situations like Bryant did.
Instead, he uses his ball handling and elite size and strength from the guard position to get his shot off in the paint. This combination resembles more current guards like Chris Paul. The NBA All Star is exceptional at using his strength from the guard position to consistently score in the paint against larger defenders. Ford has shown similar tendencies. However, much like the Bryant comparison, he lacks other aspects of Paul’s game such as his elite court vision.
Because Ford is still young and developing, a better comparison might be to a player at the collegiate level. A recent combo guard brought to my attention by an avid Hog fan, @pinto479 on Twitter, is Kris Dunn from Providence. Dunn is roughly 6’4 and possesses many of the same scoring traits that Ford continues to develop. Much like Dunn, Ford maintains tremendous body control during his drives to the hoop. He’s able to firmly, yet gracefully, plant both feet and go up in full control of his body, prepared to score through contact.
In the YouTube videos below, you can see Dunn do just that around the 1:14 mark of his highlight reel. He breaks down his primary defender, then maintains balance and control throughout his finish, despite having to adjust his shot midair.
Ford can be seen pulling off a similar maneuver at the 0:36 mark of his video. One of the most impressive aspects of Ford’s game this early in his career is his ability to keep his head in high traffic situations. He doesn’t rush moves and picks his spots quickly but carefully. At the 1:11 mark of Ford’s video below, he takes his time in evaluating what the defense is giving him. He makes his initial move to get a step ahead of the defender, then throws a timely head fake that allows him enough space to get his shot off.
Dunn possesses a similar skillset that can be seen around the 1:57 mark. He gets cut off at the top of the key, but maintains his dribble and continues to evaluate the defense. The help defenders rush back to their assignments, thinking Dunn’s attack has been halted, but Dunn quickly realizes he’s now in a 1-on-1 situation with no help defenders paying attention for a split second. He capitalizes quickly but in control, finding himself wide open at the rim.
It’s all too easy for young, athletic guards to get in the habit of leaving the ground in a blind pursuit of the rim with reckless abandon, similar to what former MVP Russell Westbrook has mastered. Another similarity to Dunn is his passable, but far from elite, shooting stroke. Ford has proven to be a capable shooter, but it doesn’t take a scouting expert to see that his shooting motion isn’t as fluid or fundamental as the league’s better sharp-shooters. Thankfully, this is a skill that can continually be improved upon as he progresses through high school and into college.
Like Mason Jones?
Another collegiate player comparison hits closer to home with Hog fans: Mason Jones. Jones has compared his game to NBA stars like James Harden in the past, and some of those similarities can be found in Ford as well. Much like both Harden and Jones, Ford does not rely on his athleticism, but rather his ball handling, strength, and IQ to score. Jones has the ability to maintain control of his body despite appearing to throw himself into the bodies of larger defenders. He has an inept ability to draw fouls while still giving himself a chance to finish the play.
Although Ford hasn’t mastered the art of drawing fouls on the same level as Jones, he uses a similar technique of picking his driving lanes carefully and using his quickness and strength to finish plays through traffic and sometimes contact. Like Jones, Ford lets his instincts take over in close-quarter situations, deciding on the fly whether to hit the defender with a crossover, spin move, euro step, or pull up jumper, all of which he has firmly in his arsenal.
Watch more about Ford’s life in Magnolia, his recruitment by the Hogs and his ties to his father here:
Author: Brandon Baker
Contributor and Senior Writer for overtimeheroics.net
Facebook Page: Overtime Heroics Arkansas