Basketball is fun again for Ford at Georgia Tech

January 06, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Kisha Ford is growing up.

In a physical sense, that observation is an easy one. The braces that once lined her megavolt smile are gone, and she now wears her hair in sophisticated braids.

But Ford, last season's Baltimore Sun girls basketball Player of the Year at Bryn Mawr, is growing in ways that can't be measured in the loss of braces or a new hairstyle.

She has burst onto the scene at Georgia Tech, leading the team in scoring (13.6) and rebounding (9.0) and also scoring in the classroom, with a 3.0 grade-point average in her first quarter.

Ford, a 5-foot-11 forward who finished her high school career at Bryn Mawr after two years at Western, had a homecoming on Sunday, when Georgia Tech lost to Maryland, 69-62, at Cole Field House. Her smooth adjustment to college includes a renewed appreciation for the game.

As a high school senior, she had said that basketball had become work, a means to an end -- namely a college education.

"There was so much basketball that I started to feel like it was a job for me and it was going to get me through college," Ford said after Sunday's game. "But now, I know it's still going to get me through college, but you've got to love it to play ACC basketball."

"She was everything [for Bryn Mawr]," said Georgia Tech coach Agnus Berenato. "If they needed a rebound, she got it. If they needed a basket, she got it. If they needed a pass, she had to pass it. We don't need Kisha to do everything."

The Yellow Jackets (4-4) are indeed a talented bunch aside from Ford. On Sunday against Maryland, for instance, Ford had just four points and six rebounds, but Georgia Tech was still in the game until the last minute.

"She's tremendously explosive. [Sunday] she didn't get into it, but she played a great team game," said Berenato. "She took a lot of defense. A lot of defense came over to her. We were able to get some of our other people open. Sometimes, you're more successful when it's not so individual. If Kisha had gotten 24 points, we might have gotten blown out."

Said Ford: "It wasn't together today, but this will be one of the few games this year where I won't play well. Defensively, I was there [threesteals], but I had six turnovers. I wasn't thinking clearly out there. To try to be a good player in the ACC, I need to think smarter on the court. It was a tough loss, but we'll get them next time."

There will be plenty of next times for Ford, who has made an impact in several games.

In the season opener against Minnesota, with the Yellow Jackets trailing by three and time running out, Ford grabbed an offensive rebound, ran out behind the three-point arc and made a shot that forced overtime.

Ford was named ACC Player of the Week two weeks ago, when she scored 24 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in a 65-62 road win over Florida State. She is first in scoring and second in rebounding among ACC rookies.

"Kisha likes playing with good players," said Berenato. "I told her tosettle for nothing less than being Rookie of the Year, because I think she should get Rookie of the Year. Kisha raises our whole level of intensity. When Kisha's up, we're up. [Against Maryland] Kisha was up because she was the homegirl, but the team flowed without her and that's a big maturity step for us."

On a team that lost seven seniors to graduation, and has 10 freshmen and sophomores, Ford quickly has assumed a leadership role, but it is not as burdensome as it was at Bryn Mawr, because the surrounding cast is so much better.

"The first thing Coach B [Berenato] told me was, 'It's time for you to step up and play your game.' When we played Minnesota. . . . she said, 'It's your game now. It's time to forget the pressure and just play basketball,' " said Ford. "I love basketball and I have for as long as I can remember. The intensity is different, but it's nothing new to me. I'm used to getting pumped."

Ford has shown a similar intensity in the classroom, making the dean's list in the first quarter.

"She's very diligent, and I give Bryn Mawr a lot of credit because they instilled that work ethic in her," said Berenato. "Her high school grades weren't as great as some of the other kids', but the work ethic was there, and she is prepared for college."

Said Ford: "It's a tough school. It's hard, from a time standpoint, to play all this basketball and try to get down to your books, but they work your schedules around basketball, and if you're having problems, they get you tutors.

L "Everything is there and there's no reason you should fail."

So far, there doesn't seem much chance of that happening, on or off the court.

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