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Former UB Bull Xavier Ford signs D-League contract

Ford to play with NBA Detroit Pistons’ D-League affiliate

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Xavier Ford has spent his entire life proving others wrong.

People told him he’d never make it out of his troubled Colorado Springs neighborhood. They told him he would never live up the hype after he struggled his first three seasons at UB.

He proved everyone wrong in helping the men’s basketball team win its first Mid-American Conference Championship and graduating UB with a degree in sociology last semester.

Now he’s ready to do it one more time.

Ford, a former forward for the Bulls, recently signed his first professional contract with the Grand Rapids Drive, the Developmental League affiliate of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. But he’s not ready to stop there.

“I’m at a point now where I’m working to prove people wrong and fight for what I want,” Ford said. “The end goal and the end result is the NBA. To get to the NBA, it’s a tough road. You just have to take it day by day, understand the grind and love the process of getting better.”

Ford decided to stay in the States after originally thinking about going overseas to continue his basketball career. But he knew he wanted to continue his basketball career in any way he could.

His agent, who already represents a player on the Drive, recommended Ford as a possible sign-on. Both sides agreed and Ford shipped out to Grand Rapids, Michigan to begin training with the team.

The news came “all of a sudden” for Ford. He didn’t even know he was going to be a part of the Pistons organization. Earlier in the process, Ford thought he would be joining the Sioux Falls Skyforce – the affiliate for the Miami Heat – after conversations with their personnel.

As talks fell apart, the Drive continued conversation with B.J. Johnson, a former Villanova basketball player and current mentor to Ford. Johnson knew multiple people at Grand Rapids and lauded Ford for his talent, ability and character.

The Drive eventually decided to give him a contract. Before Ford could be officially signed, he had to go through a background check. Everything checked out – nothing surprising to people who know Ford.

“I felt it played a long part,” Ford said about the background check. “They’re bringing in a genuine person that they don’t have to worry about off the court.”

That’s something Ford takes pride in.

Ford, who grew up in a rough neighborhood of Colorado Springs, had witnessed others fail too many times. He saw people he grew up with get involved with drugs, gangs and crime.

But not Ford.

He made it a point to prove the skeptics wrong. He wanted to be the anomaly.

“Coming from Colorado Springs, where not a lot of people accomplish what he did, it’s been instilled in him at a young age to keep working,” said Will Regan, Ford’s former Buffalo teammate. “It’s a great mentality to have.”

And work he did.

Ford was named a Parade All-American in high school before coming to UB as a touted prospect. He struggled his first three seasons and didn’t see much playing time or results.

It wasn’t until his senior year where Xavier Ford became Xavier Ford. He became a major contributor for a championship team, scoring 9.7 points and grabbing 6.2 rebounds a game and eventually took over as the permanent starter for the second half of the season.

It took a trip to Cleveland for his senior season to come full circle. He averaged 17.5 and 7.5 rebounds in the MAC Tournament and was named the Tournament MVP. He credits positive role models on the team like former head coach Bobby Hurley, who he said always conducted himself like a professional.

As he continues his journey toward the NBA, Ford can’t help but think about his hometown. He wants to do more than be a great player – he wants to make a difference for the players that think they can’t make it out of a troubled neighborhood.

“I try to pride myself on being more than just an athlete,” Ford said. “A lot of people are great athletes, and it’s just that. I try to pride myself of being an athlete and give messages back to my community. It resonates more when kids can look up and see a person who came from where they came from and understands how they feel and what they go through.”

Ford is settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan as the youngest player on the team and will partake in the first official training camp practice Monday. The Drive opens its season on Nov. 14.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jordanmgrossman.


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