ITTA BENA, Miss. -- Alphonso Ford, the leading scorer in
Mississippi Valley State history, has died of leukemia. He was 32.
Ford, who had been battling leukemia while playing in Europe for the last
several years, died Friday at a hospital in Memphis, Tenn., less than two
weeks after announcing his retirement from professional basketball,
the school announced Monday night.
He played for Mississippi Valley State between 1989 and 1993 and held 10 school
scoring records, including points per game (29.0), career scoring
(3,165), single game scoring (51, vs. Texas Southern in 1990) and
season scoring (915, in 1990-91).
"Al was one of the best offensive players I ever coached,"
Mississippi Valley State coach Lafayette Stribling said. "When he had his game going,
he was unstoppable. He could shoot it. He could elevate and get his
shots off. He was an offensive whiz who believed no one could stop
him. With him on your team, you were never out of any game."
Ford was taken by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 32nd pick of
the 1993 NBA draft and played 11 games with them before moving to
the Continental Basketball Association and then to Europe, where he
played in Turkey, Greece and Italy. He also played briefly for the Seattle SuperSonics.
He signed a one-year contract with the Italian team Scavolini Pesaro in July before announcing his retirement two weeks ago. He spent the last seven years stricken with leukemia and was unable to return to Italy this summer due to his condition.
"It is a big loss for basketball but especially for those who
have had the pleasure of knowing Alphonso's value and
correctness in the hardwood," Italian Basketball League
president Enrico Prandi said.
In the Italian League last season, Ford averaged 22.2 points per game
and led Pesaro to the Lega A semifinals. He also was the top scorer in Euroleague play from 2000 to 2003.
"For me it has been an honor to coach him," Pesaro coach Phil Melillo said. "He has been the best player I have ever had. He asked me several times this summer about the team we were constructing. He was enthusiastic about returning; that is why people loved him."
Ford is survived by his wife, Paula, and sons Karlderek and Alphonso Jr. Representatives of Pesaro will travel to the United States on Wednesday for his funeral, which is Friday morning on the Mississippi Valley State campus.
Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report..