Erika Ford has become an integral part of the Lady Bulldogs' rotation.
Jan. 15, 2013
ATHENS-----Erika Ford began making an impression on Georgia’s women’s basketball team long before she was supposed to. As a freshman, Ford averaged 20.7 minutes a game as the Lady Bulldogs suffered through an injury ravaged season. Being thrown into the fire early, however, appears to have only assisted the Alpharetta, Ga., native.
Currently averaging 17.3 minutes per game, Ford has made the extra time to rest count as she has put impressive numbers through the first half of Georgia’s season. Those numbers include averaging 7.1 points per game and 3.9 rebounds. Ford said that getting the opportunity to play early in her freshman campaign has been a major benefit for her.
“Last year I had to step up and take a spot that maybe I wasn’t ready for yet,” she said. “I feel like coming off last year I’ve done well but I still feel like there’s more that I can do.”
While feeling like there are still plenty of opportunities to improve upon her play in the early part of the season, head coach Andy Landers has enjoyed seeing Ford flourish through the season’s first 17 games.
“She’s been absolutely terrific, she’s so explosive and when she comes in the game she makes a difference. You feel her presence as soon as she walks on the floor,” Landers said. “She has ability to be disruptive defensively, she has ability to go get rebounds on both ends of the floor - which she does - and she has scored with great consistency. She’s a player on our basketball team who I feel like is really maximizing and using her minutes well.”
Ford’s freshman season was also hampered by a stress fracture to her right shin that followed a similar injury to her left leg during her senior season in high school. The ability to play completely healthy has made a big difference for the sophomore guard, according to her hall-of-fame head coach.
“The biggest thing that’s helped this year is being healthy. She was pretty banged up last year with her shins and didn’t get to practice,” Landers said. “I think practicing has helped her and being healthy has helped her more than anything.”
After being one of only two freshmen last season (the other being Krista Donald), Ford has seen a large freshman class come in this year. The five-person class has proved an impressive addition to the team, according to Ford, who said this year’s group is one she is enjoying being a part of.
“The way the freshmen have stepped up, their maturity level is so high. I look up to some of them. I like that our chemistry is amazing and that everyone gets along,” she said. “On the court everyone understands what we’re each capable of and the way everyone is so selfless with the ball is amazing.”
Now that she has become one of the Lady Bulldogs’ most reliable players, Landers and his assistant coaches have begun trying to make Ford an even better player.
“We pinpointed a couple of things last week that are kind of her achilles heel right now” he said. “Defensively there are some recognition pieces that she’s got to do a better job of and, if she does that, she’s going to make even more plays for us.”
As for Ford, she has set some personal goals for herself to try and accomplish before the end of her sophomore season.
“My first goal was to get back in shape but now I would say my main goal – I have a tendency to zone out sometimes when I’m playing – so I just want to stay intense the whole time.”
The thirteenth-ranked Lady Bulldogs (15-2, 3-1 SEC) travel to Fayetteville, Ark., on Thursday night before returning home to Stegeman Coliseum to take on Texas A&M on Sunday at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.