LAS VEGAS — The blue shooting sleeve, ok. The laced purple and gold Nike Kobe, check it out. Neatly stored No. 60 Orlando Magic jersey, check. OK, Aleem Ford is ready to play.
“Big player, big size, poise,” Ford said of Banchero. “He can do a lot on the floor and most of all I think he’s a great lad. He’s got a great personality, he’s ready to learn and that mentality can take you a long way. Apart from the skills and all the God-given talent and size and all that, having that learning mentality and the working mentality… In the short time I’ve been with him, that’s something I’ve noticed.
Ford averaged 5.0 points per game in the Summer League. His shot didn’t always fall in the three games he played, but that certainly didn’t stop him from attacking the basket and reaching the free throw line, where he shot 100%.
“See where the game takes me. That’s the most important thing, just being in the moment and trying to make the most of it. Every day,” Ford said. “Learning from today and going back to the gym tomorrow and watching a movie about my shooting and correcting some things that I probably could have done better with my form. Build on that and the next game.
Last year, Ford appeared in 31 games for the Lakeland Magic, the G League affiliate of Orlando Magic. There, he averaged 12.5 points while shooting 38.7% from the 3-point line.
Respectfully, Ford averaged just 8.6 points as a junior in Wisconsin, then upped it slightly to 8.7 points as a senior – is the average now 12.5 points in Professional level ? How does the 24-year-old continue to elevate his game?
“I’m learning as much as I can,” Ford said. “I went to Puerto Rico (Leones de Ponce) after Wisconsin and I was able to learn a lot there, about the professional lifestyle and how to approach the game. Then, going to Lakeland, I continued to develop on and off the pitch and that’s what I’m trying to do here at the Summer League right now as I enter my second year as a professional.
Last season, midway through his Lakeland Magic season, Ford got the opportunity every G-Leaguer strives for: He was called up to play five NBA games. Orlando called him up for a 10-day stint in late December, and Ford scored his first NBA field goal against the Miami Heat, but didn’t even realize the monumental experience until after.
“I didn’t really think about it until afterwards because it all happened so fast,” Ford said. “I got into the tubs after the game and was able to sit back and enjoy the moment. Everyone was reaching out to me, wishing me kind words and that’s when I thought “wow”.
“I was just able to go out there and get reps. Which could take me far and learn from these reps and help me get back into the G League. Being up there for that long and being able to ask questions and be hands-on on the spot helped me a lot.
The Badgers were well represented at the NBA Summer League. In addition to Ford, four other Wisconsin alumni were participating (Vitto Brown, Johnny Davis, Micah Potter, Nate Reuvers) and three of them were former Ford teammates. Ford said it was one of his favorite parts of his summer experience.
“Getting out here and being able to play games and being able to connect with some of my guys,” he said. “Some of my old teammates, some guys I played with a lot through college and high school and everything. Micah is there right now (Ford proudly pointed the pitch).
“We continue to grow, mature and take our game to the next level. Use what we learned throughout high school and college to catapult us into our professional careers. Keep hanging out with them, keep building those relationships, because we’re really on this journey together. I really feel like we could use each other as a resource.