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March 30, 2011

For Ford, Cinderella's slipper fits on both feet

Fayetteville (N.C.) Westover point guard Carlton Ford has tried to watch all of Virginia Commonwealth's NCAA tournament games. And for good reason.

Perhaps the best player in Westover High history (Eric Maynor) may also be the best player in VCU history.

In addition, VCU runs the same type of fast-paced up-tempo offense that Ford directs at Westover.

And then there's this: Virginia Commonwealth is recruiting Ford, the No. 22 point guard in the Class of 2012, really hard. It already has made the junior a formal offer.

But if you think Ford is ready to commit to VCU for college, think again. In fact, he's not even ready to commit to the school when he watches the national semifinal on Saturday.

Ford, you see, also is being recruited by Butler - making him the only player in the country being recruited by both of this year's surprising Final Four teams.

"It's a really good feeling to see both of those teams doing well," Ford said. "When I watch them, I try to picture myself out there."

It's easy with VCU.

"I'm an up-tempo point guard," Ford said. "I like to push the ball into the paint and make things happen. That's why they have been recruiting me so hard. I fit their system."

Ford, however, is quick to say he would fit into Butler's more pass-oriented weave offense, too.

"They like to get it up the floor, too, and shoot 3-pointers," he said. "But they also run a passing offense; I can do that, too."

His coach, George Stackhouse, thinks there's nothing Ford can't do if he puts his mind to it.

"Some kids say they want to be good, others work to be great, he's that way," Stackhouse said. "It's nice as a coach when your top players are your hardest workers."

Others are taking notice.

Ford, ranked No. 119 in the Rivals 150, averaged 14.6 points and 5.0 assists to lead Westover to a 22-5 record.

Stackhouse doesn't blush when he compares him to a former North Carolina high school star: John Wall. "His speed with the ball is what sets him apart," Stackhouse said.

Ford, who has four offers already, is starting to get looks from schools in bigger conferences.

Clemson, Stackhouse said, is showing great interest. So is fellow ACC school N.C. State. The University of Miami already has made an offer. Big East schools Providence and Notre Dame also have expressed interest.

But those schools aren't a lock for his services. Stackhouse, a former assistant at East Carolina, said times have changed.

"We're in the heart of ACC country," he said. "In years past, kids would wait around just waiting for any ACC offer. It was a no-brainer. That's not the case anymore."

Stackhouse said kids just want to play. And the success of VCU and Butler is showing kids you can play right away at a mid-major and still play in major games.

"It's all evened out," he said. "The bigger schools might get the bigger names, but the smaller schools keep the players longer. And there's not much difference in talent.

"You look at the kids on VCU and Butler this year and they're just good players. What they're doing is no fluke. They are playing at the level they play. I tell my kids you just want to go somewhere that matches your talents, your style of play, what you do well on the court."

Ford said it's great to see the schools recruiting him doing so well, but don't ask him to pick a side on Saturday.

"I just want to see a good game," he said.

But if Saturday night is tough, Thursday night is easy.

When he flips on the NIT final, he'll be pulling for Wichita State.

"They're recruiting me, too," he said.

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