PILOT MOUNTAIN — UNC legend Phil Ford made an appearance at East Surry High School on Tuesday, part of a promotion for the ACC Barnstorming Tour.
The 35th-annual event will make a stop at East Surry on April 17 and will feature a game between the ACC All Stars and the Surry County All-Stars. The event will also include a 3-point and slam dunk contest.
Ford, a 1978 grad of North Carolina, is the school’s No. 2 all-time scorer with 2,290 points. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year with the Kansas City Kings in 1979, and in 1988 he returned to UNC as an assistant coach, and helped lead the Heels to the national championship in 1993. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.
Ford, who will coach the ACC team, spoke to the members of the Cardinals basketball team.
“We are here to promote the senior talent at the ACC schools,” Ford said. “A lot of folks don’t have the opportunity to see these folks in person.”
The ACC roster this year includes UNC’s Leslie McDonald, Duke’s Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins and Josh Hairston, NC State’s Jordan Vandenberg, and Wake Forest’s Travis McKie.
The team of Surry County All Stars is still being assembled.
Ford said the success of the Barnstorming Tour is a result of the heavy interest in college basketball in the state of North Carolina. He was asked how the ACC players handle playing on the same team with guys from schools that are heated rivals.
“The guys I played with, David Thompson, Tommy Amaker, those guys, there was mutual respect,” he said. “On the court, you want to beat those guys. I don’t care if it’s an ACC game or Barnstorming Tour.”
Ford was also asked about the Heel’s upcoming game against Duke on Saturday.
“(NC) State was my rivalry,” he said with a chuckle. “We’ve taken care of them twice so I’m happy.”
Ford directly addressed the student-athletes on hand at the conference on Tuesday.
“I’m honored to be a part of the ACC,” he said. “I dreamed of playing basketball at North Carolina. A lot of you guys have dreamed of playing ACC basketball, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But a game plan B is a great thing to have.
“Try to go for your dreams. My daughter wanted to be an actress. I talk to a hundred kids a year. They all want to be the next great guitar player. You better have a game plan B. On the other hand, you can’t get my age and wonder.”
Another question came regarding players who bolt for the NBA before graduating college. Ford said both of his parents were public school teachers, but that after his junior year coach Dean Smith encouraged him to go pro.
“I was No. 2 overall in 1978 and made 1.25 million over five years,” Ford said, noting how much contracts have increased since then. “As a 21-year-old guy it’s hard to say turn it down. It should be his decision once he turns 18.”
Ford, who also had stops in Lenoir and Bassett, Va. on Tuesday, wrapped up the conference with some humor.
“My dad thought I was a good baseball player, but I couldn’t hit,” he said. “I was 0-for-38 before my first one.”
After the conference, he signed autographs and had photos taken with some of the students on hand.
Over the years, the Tour has featured Michael Jordan, Len Bias, Dereck Whittenburg, Tyler Hansbrough, Nolan Smith and Tyler Zeller. A similar Barnstorming event was held at Surry Central High School in 2008.
Proceeds from the event will go to East Surry High School and the Ronald McDonald House. General admission is $12 in advance and $15 at the door. VIP tickets, which include a postgame reception with the ACC players and reserved front row seats and a photo/autograph session, are $50.
Tickets are available at East Surry High School as well as Aunt Bea’s in Mount Airy and Pilot Mountain, online at www.carolinabarnstorming.com, or by phone at 704-246-3816. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the game will tip off at 7:30 p.m.