From Wednesday's CM Life:
By Daniel Monson
Sports Copy Chief
Every day before he comes to practice, Brandon Ford uses a pump to make sure his left foot has enough blood.
The circulation is so poor that his foot is constantly swollen up. His size-16 shoes are not big enough sometimes without a compression sock. But the senior center on the men's basketball team is not making any excuses.
"I have some days where it just hurts to walk around," he said. "But it's something I've lived with since high school, so I've gotten used to it."
It was easy to attend a men's basketball game during the last three seasons and overlook the six-foot, 11-inch Ford.
After sitting out his freshman season in 2005-2006, the Petrolia, Ontario native spent most of his time sitting on the bench next to coach Ernie Zeigler. He did not even score last season, playing in only 11 games.
"You always have your days when you're like, 'why I am I doing this? Is all the work worth it?'" Ford said. "But at the end of the day, you're out here, having fun and playing basketball. You're doing what you love to do."
But this season, his last before he graduates, Ford was called upon to step in when two forwards - junior Marko Spica and senior Chris Kellermann - suffered season-ending injuries.
"Brandon hasn't had a lot of opportunities to perform in the heat of battle," said Zeigler, who considers the center to be the team's most surprising player this season.
After two seasons in which he played just 31 games and 103 total minutes (3.3 per game) Ford already has totaled 99 minutes in 13 games (7.6 per game) this season. When senior forward Marcus Van gets in foul trouble, Ford is called upon to utilize his size in the post.
"In the game of basketball, the one thing you can't coach, the one thing you can't teach is size," Zeigler said. "Irregardless of how athletic a person may be with size, when he puts his hands up, he's 7-5, 7-6."
Ford found himself in a position to affect the outcome of the game for one of the first times in his career Jan. 17 against Ball State. His four points on a layup and dunk after Van fouled out were crucial to helping CMU hold on for its first MAC win.
"You always want to be in those positions," Ford said. "You want to be that person - it doesn't matter who starts, it's who finishes. You want coaches to trust you and trust you that you can pull off the win."
In addition to Ford's chronic circulation problems, he also underwent knee surgery two seasons ago.
"He can only go so long in increments of time in terms of being on the floor," Zeigler said. "He's battled through a lot of things where some people would have said, 'I can't physically do it.' Now it's given him the opportunity to reap the benefits of all the hard work and suffering that he's gone through up to this point."
Growing up in Petrolia, which is about 20 miles across the St. Clair River from Port Huron, Ford played hockey until he grew to the point where he knew he was more suitable for basketball.
"I sprouted up in kindergarten," Ford said, smiling. "That's when I started growing two inches a year, four inches a year. I was always the tallest person."
Zeigler said Ford is slowly realizing he can be a force when he's on the court. But off it, he's still a kid from a small town in Canada.
"At times when he's off the court, he's very happy-go-lucky," Zeigler said. "He's that gentle giant."
And Ford is enjoying every minute of his time spent on the court this season.
"You put all the practice in - you may hate it some days," he said. "But when it comes to the games, it's that feeling of being on the court in the last minute and a half and everyone's watching you - it's what you live for."