It already seems like a long time ago, but it was only 2003 when Texas ran through their regional to qualify for the NCAA Final Four. Andrew and I were both in San Antonio for the Regional Semifinal and Final, as a sea of burnt orange overtook the Alamo Dome and cheered the Horns on to the Final Four. TJ Ford overcame foul trouble to preserve the Texas win over UConn, finishing with 13 points and 9 assists.
TJ Ford celebrates leading Texas
to the Final Four in 2003.
Not all Longhorn fans know this, but TJ wanted to return to Texas for his junior season. After a scary neck injury during a pickup game, however, Rick Barnes told Ford he should go pro now, as the nerve injury in his neck could cost him millions of dollars, or his career altogether, if he injured it in college. As it turns out, that was wise advice. Ford injured it in the NBA and missed over a year. He's now healthy and back with the Milwaukee Bucks, but there was some concern that he might not ever return.
If Ford -had- returned, Texas may not have lost a game in 2004, and would have been heavy favorites to win it all. With the core of Ivey, Mouton, Boddicker, and Thomas all returning, with Syd Harris and Kenny Thomas in reserve, Texas would have been ridiculously tough to beat had TJ been running the point.
Here's to hoping DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams can bring back some stability to the position Ford played so well.
Hook 'Em Horns