J ordan Ford lost his cool once.
It happened in a familiar gym against a familiar foe. He repeatedly was backed into the key, where he allowed a barrage of buckets: hook shots, putbacks, layups. Ford fussed and fumed and nearly took his ball and stomped home.
“I was so frustrated that I’d cry,” said Ford, Folsom High School’s cool and composed sophomore point guard. “I wanted to win so bad, but she kept taking me in the post to kill me inside.”
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He was 8 years old, and his sister, Jennifer, was three years older and determined to show who was boss. That’s about the only time Ford has shown a glimmer of weakness in his demeanor, which otherwise defines him.
Those lessons stung then, and he hasn’t forgotten them. Ford tirelessly worked on his game, and he vowed never to get humbled in basketball again.
Jennifer will be watching from the stands as the Bulldogs (31-2), with a 21-game winning streak, play Cosumnes Oaks (16-17 including forfeits but 31-2 on the floor) Saturday at noon in the CIF Northern California Division II championship at Sleep Train Arena, assuring the area will have a team playing for a state title next weekend.
Ford started for the varsity as a freshman last season, when the Bulldogs went 12-15. This season, he’s been a facilitator and closer. Ford also is a showman without dominating the ball or disrupting the Bulldogs’ offensive flow. He creates space with a subtle dribble behind his back or between his legs, or a crossover. He’s averaging 22.6 points, scoring on floaters in the lane, tough baseline jumpers, on the break and from three-point range.
After scoring 33 points in a 79-62 Sac-Joaquin Section title victory over Cosumnes Oaks on March 8, he is the must-stop player for the Wolfpack today.
“It all starts with Jordan Ford,” Cosumnes Oaks senior forward Alex Van Dyke said. “Ford’s been a nice player since he was little. He’s always been really good.”
In Tuesday’s 58-57 victory over Serra of San Mateo in a NorCal semifinal, Ford scored 19 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including the winning floater down the lane in the closing seconds.
“When Ford gets in that mode, he’s just so hard to stop,” Folsom coach Mike Wall said. “He never ceases to amaze me. He has a knack of understanding where he is on any given night. If he’s not feeling his shot, he’ll throttle it down and get others involved. He has a real mature feeling about his game and never forces things.”
Ford does all this despite looking like your kid brother. He’s all arms and legs attached to a wiry 6-foot frame. The only time Ford showed emotion Tuesday was when he ran into the waiting arms of the school’s rooting section, known as the “Dog Pack,” after the game.
“His age is definitely not indicative of his maturity,” Wall said. “Physically, Jordan will mature, but intellectually and emotionally, he’s way ahead of his years. And he does surprise people. I catch people scoffing periodically before games, ‘Which one is Ford? Point him out. Oh, that’s the guy? Really?’ ”
Ford said he especially appreciates the respect from his teammates, with guard Josiah Deguara saying, “We know how good he is, and he’s our leader.”
Ford said he learned about composure from years of playing chess – he’s won age-group state championships – and from his father, Cuzear, who played sports at since-closed Norte Del Rio High in Del Paso Heights and baseball at Cosumnes River College and UC Santa Barbara.
Cuzear Ford said he taught his kids how to play chess, specifically how “to be objective, to find the right path to a win, to have technical and tactical skills and to regulate emotions so you don’t play an emotional game. Jordan has all of that.”
Jordan Ford’s nickname as a chess champion was “The Storm,” because he intimidated older players with his execution. The nickname could work in basketball, his father said, because his son represents the calm before the storm.
“My parents are pretty calm, so that’s where I get some of it,” Ford said. “My mom ( Ann) will sometimes have outbursts at games, though. She videotapes the games, and you can hear her get excited.”
Sister Jenniferhas outbursts, too. The bond between the siblings is tight, but Jordan Ford says big sister no longer can find the time for one-on-one rematches.
“She loves me to death, and I love her, too, but she knows her best basketball days are behind her,” Ford said. “She can’t hang with me now.”