Phil Ford had some of his best high school games against New Bern. To his recollection, playing basketball in Rocky Mount, he once scored 54 points, a career-high, in a playoff game versus New Bern.
Ford, University of North Carolina’s second all-time leading scorer, stopped by New Bern on Friday to answer questions from the media and the audience at The Epiphany School.
Ford’s true reason for the visit was to promote the upcoming ACC Barnstorming Tour, which takes flight in April in eight cities in Virginia and North Carolina.
The final stop, on Apr. 25, will be at the Epiphany School.
“I just enjoy basketball and I enjoy being around basketball fans,” Ford said. “There is so much enthusiasm from the players and the fans. It’s a fun family night, and I am happy to be a part of it.”
The tour will bring every senior from the basketball teams of North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest.
The group of players includes North Carolina’s Leslie McDonald, Wade Moody, Denzel Robinson and James Manor, along with Duke’s Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston, Andre Dawkins and Todd Zafirovski. N.C. State big man Jordan Vandenberg and Wake’s Coron Williams and Travis McKie will also be on hand.
The event will include an exhibition game, a 3-point shootout and a slam dunk competition.
Seniors playing competitive basketball at New Bern High, Havelock, West Craven and Pamlico, as well as former basketball players, are invited to challenge the ACC Barnstormers.
Tickets will be sold in advance for $15 at the Epiphany School, New Bern Sporting Goods and Famous Restaurant. A limited number of VIP tickets will be on sale for $75.
“I think this is a very good location for it,” said T.J. Taylor, the event coordinator. “This is my first time here and it is a very nice gym. It’s going to see out, and an amazing atmosphere.”
Ford, who toured with the Barnstormers as a senior at UNC in 1978, will coach the ACC all-stars.
“It’s a tradition that’s been going on in the ACC before I graduated from North Carolina,” Ford said. “It’s a tradition of going around to different gyms in the state of North Carolina, playing a game.”
Ford was a three-time NCAA All-American, the National Player of the Year in 1978 and NBA Rookie of the Year in 1979. He played in the 1976 Olympics.
Ford was an assistant at North Carolina from 1988-2000.
But through his days at his native town to his college days at North Carolina and his time as a professional, Ford, who grew to be 6-foot-2, could never dunk a basketball.
Ford recently had his book published, “The Kid Who Couldn’t Dunk,” to motivate the youth.
“I was approached by a buddy of mine, a former sports editor, about all the bullying going around in schools, and how kids always think they have to be the best or the smartest or the toughest or most athletic,” Ford said. “I had success as a basketball player and I wasn’t the most athletic guy in the world. I never dunked.
“We thought it would be helpful for kids.”
Ford’s father and mother were both teachers. His father was a sports fanatic who drove the Activity bus for the school’s athletic events.
At age five or six, that’s when Ford started picking up a basketball.
“My dad was a big sports fan, so I liked to play basketball, football and baseball,” Ford said. “He would let me go to some of the road games and let me sit on the bus.
“I would be in the gym with my dad and they would give me a ball to shoot.”
Even at 58-years old, Ford can’t get enough of the roundball.