T.J. Ford graduates from Texas, shares touching moment with ex-coach Rick Barnes

The Dagger
T.J. Ford answers questions at the 2003 Final Four. (AP)
T.J. Ford answers questions at the 2003 Final Four. (AP)

In two exemplary seasons at Texas, T.J. Ford won national player of the year, led the Longhorns to the Final Four and had his No. 11 jersey retired.

The only accomplishment missing was his diploma.

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Ford finally checked that off the list Friday when he walked across the stage after earning a bachelor’s degree from Texas in youth and community studies, with a minor in educational psychology. It was an emotional moment both for Ford and ex-Longhorns coach Rick Barnes, who returned to Austin to attend his former star player’s graduation ceremony.

The eighth pick in the first round of the 2003 NBA draft, Ford displayed tremendous quickness and court vision during nine injury-plagued seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs. Spinal stenosis cost Ford his entire second season and parts of several others before finally leading him to retire in 2012.

For Ford, life after basketball has centered around inspiring kids from his native Houston. He started the TJ Ford Basketball Academy to provide mentorship and educational resources for young basketball players from the city where he grew up.

“Since it began, more than 50 kids who have participated in the academy have landed scholarships,” Ford wrote in a recent Players Tribune story. “That really means something to me. It means a whole lot.”

On Friday, Ford set an example for those kids. Fourteen years after he last played for Texas, Ford became the first person from his family to earn a college degree.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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