“They understood the value of an education. They owned it. They pursue the desires that are in their heart, and they’re willing to pay the price to accomplish that. I’ve told Quincy, it came from someone else, but . . . your talent will only take you as far as your character will keep you.”
Talent gets spotted
As long as Ford’s grades were high enough — there is a home school association that Denise turns grades into — he would be eligible to play athletics for a high school, even though he wouldn’t be a student there. He chose nearby Gibbs High, playing for basketball coach Larry Murphy twice: first as a 5-11 freshman, then as a senior, when he had grown to 6-8.
“He basically hit a growth spurt one summer and came back 7 inches taller,” said Murphy, who was at the school but not coaching when Ford was a sophomore and junior. “Even though he was 6-8, I allowed him to handle the ball. He was able to shoot threes and do all the things that guards do, because that’s who he was.”
Ford was also active in AAU basketball, which is how Northeastern associate head coach Pat Duquette found him. But the father of a former Boston College player gets the assist.
When Duquette was still coaching at BC, the Eagles had a center named Evan Ravenel, who transferred after his sophomore season to Ohio State, where he is now a senior. The Ravenels live in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, where Evan’s father, Eugene, is involved with the local summer basketball scene. He knew of Ford, and rang Duquette.
“Otherwise I don’t know if I ever would have seen him,” Duquette said. “I went down to Orlando to watch him in the national AAU showcase tournament, and he wasn’t even playing on any of the main feature floors. I had to travel 16 miles to Court 38 at Poinciana High School.
“The only reason I got excited was because of the respect I have for Eugene Ravenel. I know he’s got a great sense for players’ abilities, and he swore by Quincy. That was in the back of my mind.”
When Duquette arrived at Ford’s AAU game, there were three other college coaches (not the hundreds camped out at the feature courts). Five minutes into the game, he was sold.
“We’re not getting five-star McDonald’s All-Americans here, but you could certainly see the potential for something really special down the road,” Duquette said. “I truly feel this was a really good fit for him, not just because of the level of competition, but the type of environment we have here.”
The right path
Northeastern coach Bill Coen never recruited an athlete who had been home-schooled, and he was curious — not to mention a bit cautious — about learning how the system worked. Because of Denise Ford’s organization and attention to detail, he said, it was a surprisingly easy process.
“She had a file as big as most college textbooks,” Coen said. “All the documentation, everything we needed to see, she had.
“Whenever you recruit a student-athlete, you want to, first and foremost, feel in your heart that you can serve that student well, particularly from an academic standpoint. You don’t want to put a student in a situation where they couldn’t be successful, couldn’t handle the work here.
“All you needed to do was have a three-minute conversation with Quincy and his mom and you knew right away that wasn’t going to be the case. He’s an extremely intelligent young man. He was just educated in an unconventional way.”
Ford, who says he has a 2.7 GPA at Northeastern, majoring in human services, needed a few weeks to acclimate to college classes. But he made an immediate impact on the court for the Huskies, averaging 11.5 points per game in his first year and 12.9 as a sophomore.
He’s not the leading scorer — seniors Joel Smith (16.5) and Jonathan Lee (13.8) produce more points — but Ford’s height, offensive range, and skill set make him a difficult matchup for opponents, and set him apart from most everybody else.
“Every now and then he’ll make a play where you realize that nobody else on the court could make that play but Quincy,” Coen said. “I think we knew his potential — and that’s the big word that everybody uses with Quincy.
“Once you meet him, and you understand the type of person you’re dealing with and the type of human being he is, he just makes you believe that he’s going to fulfill all that potential.”
Despite the occasional adolescent pangs of not going to a public school — “the only reason I thought like that was because I sometimes got tired of my brothers, hanging around them all day and all night” — Ford is grateful. He played sports, had friends, twice went to the prom. Typical school-age experiences.Continued...