May 13, 2014

Player of the Year finds comfort at Toccoa Falls

TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield High School girls basketball coach Greg Brown ranks Halle Ford among the best players to come through the program.

He hopes the senior’s success — and the opportunity that is following her high school days — will inspire current and future Lady Bruins to achieve similar greatness.

Ford, a four-year starter at point guard for Northwest, will attend and play basketball at Toccoa Falls College, a National Christian College Athletic Association member school in northeast Georgia. NCCAA Division II programs do not offer athletic scholarships.

Ford was The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year this past season as a senior, averaging 12 points, four assists and four steals as she helped the Lady Bruins finish runner-up in Region 7-4A for the second year in a row. Northwest also made its second straight appearance in the state tournament and advanced beyond the first round for the first time since 2010.

“I don’t think you can talk about the best players in the history of this program without including her in there,” said Brown, who was an assistant from 2007 to 2011 and has been the head coach the past three seasons. “Not only is it the impact she made this year, but also she has played a lot through her four-year career. Not a lot of kids that have played here can say that. I’ve been here seven years, and we’ve had maybe three or four girls who have contributed significantly for four years. That’s not that many.”

Ford said her decision to attend Toccoa Falls, which went 8-17 this past season, had a lot to do with a campus visit this spring.

“When I started talking to who will be my teammates, I connected with them,” she said.

“I felt comfortable talking to them. ... I wanted to stay close to home, but then once I saw Toccoa and how beautiful it is, location didn’t matter as much.”

Ford had strong interest from other schools, including nearby Covenant College in Lookout Mountain and Tennessee’s Cleveland State Community College, but she went with Toccoa Falls because she envisioned herself being happy at the school.

“If you don’t enjoy being around (your teammates) and the school,” she said, “then you won’t be happy.”

Toccoa Falls coach Jason Swiney, who took over the program in 2012, is a 1994 graduate of Northwest and the brother of Coahulla Creek High School softball coach Josh Swiney. Jason Swiney saw in Ford the future point guard for his program.

“We need a floor general,” he said. “We need someone who has been through battles at a high level and has a high basketball IQ. ... We’ve come a long way in two years, but we have girls playing out of position. Having someone like Halle come in allows the others to shift to their more natural positions.”

Northwest had four seniors on the roster this past season. Ford is the first who has announced she’ll be playing college basketball. Mallory Souther and Macy Weeks signed college softball scholarships.

Brown believes having a member of the group play basketball in college is important.

“Not only is it good for her and that senior class, but it’s good for the future of our program,” he said. “It’s good for the kids at New Hope Middle and Westside Elementary to see this and say, ‘Hey, that’s a Lady Bruin going to college; I have an opportunity to do that.’ It filters all the way down and does nothing but have a positive impact on our program as a whole.”

Ford agreed and hopes the legacy she leaves behind motivates those that follow.

“It will show them,” she said, “that hard work pays off.”

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