- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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?Had 54 assists in six games and never seemed to miss a clutch shot as the U.S. won at the 1976 Olympics.
?Ran the "Four Corners" to perfection and sank 26 of 30 free throws to help Carolina win the 1975 ACC championship when he was a freshman.
And so on, back to Ford's elementary school days in Rocky Mount, N.C., when he would bribe the other kids with a handful of cookies into staying around and playing more basketball. A coach's dream to this day, Ford is so closely associated with the Tar Heels' sophisticated game of keep-away that it is easy to forget what a murderous shooter he can be.
Besides leading the ACC in free-throw percentage (.853) last season, he scored a career-high 32 points against N.C. State on 14 of 21 from the floor and put in 30 more vs. Tulane on 11 of 16. He has never taken more than 22 shots in a game and, astonishingly, has 1,665 career points in only 1,188 attempts.
"One of the keys to any jump shooter's success is getting a feel for the basket," says Ford. "By now I've shot so much in practice, I don't have to aim. I know where the hoop is. Another important factor is never thinking you're going to miss. I don't. And finally, enjoying the game. If I'm uptight about a test or something, I'll come down to the gym and shoot. It makes me feel better. I like hearing the ball bounce." And swish, too.
Talk about a minority group whose image could stand sprucing up, what about NCAA scoring champions? In 30 years, only half a dozen—Arizin (1950), Clyde Lovellette (1952), Robertson (1958-60), Rick Barry (1965), Jimmy Walker (1967) and Pete Maravich (1968-70)—achieved commensurate success in the pros.
"I'm going to be different," says Portland State's Freeman Williams, with the unbridled optimism of one who led the nation in scoring last season with a 38.8 average. And there is good reason to believe that this quiet 6'4" senior from Los Angeles may not go the way of other NBA booby prizes.
Portland State's schedule—a hodgepodge of strong independents, WCAC teams and small colleges—has severely limited Williams' supporters. Typical of those who have never caught Williams' act and sneer at him as just another NCAA scoring champ is Coach Dick Harter of nearby Oregon, who says, "I don't know anything about him."
However, on one ambitious road trip last season Williams proved his mettle by helping to stop three good-sized home-court winning streaks in four nights—at the University of New Orleans (10 straight), at North Texas State (19) and at Pan American (20). He scored 42, 34 and 30 and hurt all three teams' hopes for NCAA tournament bids.