JCC basketball growing with Ford
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 6, 2008 1:46 PM
SMITHFIELD -- Johnston Community College certainly took its lumps during its first year of competition on the basketball court.
The Jaguars were outscored by 106 points in their first two outings and had just one player averaging double figures.
One year has made a difference.
Off to another 0-2 start this season, JCC has shown significant improvement and has been outscored by just 17 points in the two losses. Instead of one player scoring in double digits, they now have four.
"It's going to be a learning experience for myself and also for my players," said JCC head coach Rod Ford. "There are going to be some growing pains and the first couple of games will be hectic."
Ford assumed the head-coaching duties in the offseason and has recruited a new crop of faces to fill the uniforms. With no player taller than 6-foot-5 forward Stepfernia Pitt, the Jaguars will have to use other tactics to knock off opponents in Region X Division II play.
While Ford understands wins and losses fuel athletic programs, his main goal is to stress the importance of education. The players participate in an intense tutorial program one night a week.
"Academics ... first and foremost," said Ford. "When I'm sitting in a recruit's living room with his parents, I tell my job is to make your son a better young man -- not only on the basketball court, but in the workforce.
"That's my main goal."
A journeyman on the high school and collegiate basketball scenes, Ford is building the program on different philosophies he's gathered while working with other head coaches. The players take part in the "Read to Achieve" program, which involves middle schools in Johnston County.
Once a week, they head over to Johnston Memorial Hospital and play chess with the senior citizens.
"It's important to get the kids involved in the community," said Ford. "There are so many kids in this area and the talent really hasn't been tapped into (by the college coaches). I let my guys know it's a second chance (to play) and that they're just as good as the guys at the established JUCOs.
"I want to jump-start this program."
Ford has players from small communities like Angier, Selma, Kenly, Franklinton, Louisburg and Hope Mills. Former Wayne County standouts Montrel Sims and Leonard Compton, who both played at Charles B. Aycock, are also on the team.
Meshing personalities, teaching basic fundamentals and checking on the players' academic progress are Ford's greatest challenges in the program's infant stages. Once those things have settled, then he can concentrate on his next task -- battling good coaching friends for talent.
Ford's player-referral days are over.
"Oh, next year we're going to run into some stiff competition," grinned Ford. "I am definitely going to bump heads with some good friends who have supported me through the years. But I want the high school coaches in this area to know that Johnston Community College is a place where you can send your kid to grow.
"I hope to have us on the map."
The Jaguars will play their home games at either Smithfield-Selma High School, the AIG Center or the Wall-Ennis Gymnasium on the South Community Campus. JCC entertains Vance-Granville CC at 6 p.m. Saturday at Smithfield-Selma.
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