Ford faces Terps, faces down jitters B. Mawr alum at home on road for Ga. Tech

February 19, 1997|By MILTON KENT | MILTON KENT,SUN STAFF

If Georgia Tech senior Kisha Ford has a monster game against Maryland tonight in College Park, the Yellow Jackets will have her mother and the airlines to thank.

The past three years, Ford, a former Sun Player of the Year at Bryn Mawr, has had some subpar days in her annual return to the area, and she attributes some of that to nervousness about coming home to play in front of friends and family.

But Ford's mom, her nephew and some family friends flew to Atlanta last weekend for her last home game there, and Ford says she believes the butterflies should flutter away.

"That will help me a lot for the Maryland game because I do get nervous when I do get up there just playing in front of the hometown people. But I think I've been playing a lot better basketball altogether and playing more consistent, so I think that will help, too," Ford said by phone Monday.

Indeed, Ford, who earlier this season became Tech's all-time leading scorer and has 1,889 career points (15th on the Atlantic Coast Conference list), has been terrific this year, averaging 20.1 points and 9.0 rebounds, both second in the ACC.

She is also in the top 10 in free-throw percentage, steals, assists and field-goal percentage, where her .510 far exceeds the .410 she shot from the field last season.

Ford, who likely will be named to the all-ACC first team next week, was ACC Player of the Week last week, averaging 26.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in three wins, including a 22-point, 10-rebound, four-assist, five-steal and two-block performance in a 72-60 upset of then-No. 9 Virginia, the first time Georgia Tech had beaten the Cavaliers in 19 games.

"It was a big win. We were really excited to have them on our home court," Ford said. "We knew our backs were against the wall. Our goal is to get to the NCAAs and we just had to play hard and play smart."

With a 15-9 record overall and a 7-7 mark in the league, Georgia Tech is tied for fourth with Clemson, Maryland and North Carolina State with just Saturday's road game with the Wolfpack left after tonight.

Ford, a 6-foot swing player, is playing perhaps the best basketball of her career at a time when the Yellow Jackets need it most. In pressure situations, leaders step to the forefront, and she has taken it upon herself to make her game better.

"This year in particular, I feel as though I've achieved that goal. That's something that I've always wanted to do, and I just didn't know how to get there. I feel as though I have a big supporting cast now, so that helps me a lot just to be able to play my game because I know I can get some help," Ford said.

Her maturation process extends off the court, where she has made regular appearances at local boys and girls clubs to spread a motivational message.

"That's important. I come from Baltimore City and [a teacher] took me off the baseball field and said: 'You look athletic. Do you want to play basketball.' That's a big key to getting kids started in basketball, giving them somebody to look up to. It's hard for them to get to a professional men's game to see them play. When they can come to a women's game and we sign autographs and when their coaches want us to come talk to them, we can do that. That's the most important thing, to get those kids loving the game and to have someone to look up to."

Said Georgia Tech coach Agnus Berenato: "Here she's breaking all the records, but it's her presence and charisma with the public and the community. At least three times a week she's getting requests to go speak to little kids here or there. She never says no. She has been a real leader in that area, and now all the other kids all follow suit and they know that that's expected. She's just really matured into a wonderful person, and she's a great player on top of it."

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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