Not wanting to give up on his dream of playing high-level Division I basketball, Henderson County graduate Ford Stuen decided his best option would be to attend a prep school.
Stuen, who averaged 19.3 points per game for the Colonels last season, will continue his career at IMG Academy basketball program in Bradenton, Fla.
The 6-foot-2 guard made dramatic improvement on the court from his junior to senior season. “Up through my junior year, I had always just rode my talent, but I realized that wasn’t good enough. I was going to have to work harder,” he said.
Stuen described the results as “a complete 180” from his junior year to senior season. “If it wasn’t for me pushing myself and my coaches pushing me, I know I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play at the next level,” he said.
As a late bloomer of sorts, Stuen was under the radar for most colleges though he did have some offers. Another year of development might push him closer toward his goals.
“If I could do what I did in my senior year, why couldn’t I do even more in prep school,” he said.
Stuen had considered being a walk-on at Oklahoma State, where his uncle Travis Ford is the head coach. And while he doesn’t rule out playing for the Cowboys eventually, he knew a walk-on spot would mean little if any playing time.
“I’m not ready to quit playing basically. To play in the Big 12 or even to just be a part of it would be great, but I’d like to get to the point where it would be as a scholarship player. I feel like with some more improvement I might have the opportunity to play at a mid-major or a high level Division I,” he said.
Stuen leaned on the advice of his uncle and his grandfather Eddie Ford and considered some prep schools in the Northeast, where Travis Ford had made many connections while coaching at UMass. But instead he opted for a warmer climate.
Stuen first visited IMG last winter with his grandfather, who was checking on a player that was being recruited by Oklahoma State.
“I started to talking to some of the coaches and they followed me through the rest of the season,” Stuen said. “They wanted me to come back for a visit. I fell in love with it.”
The IMG Academy basketball program is part of the expansion of the athletic training center that was originally started as the renowned Bollettieri Tennis Academy, which was purchased by IMG the sports media and market company.
IMG alumni include former UK guard Ramel Bradley, Louisville forward Jared Swopshire, South Carolina’s Renaldo Balkman and Michael Beasley of Kansas State and the NBA’s Miami Heat.
Stuen has spent his summer in Stillwater working out with the Oklahoma State players. “It’s been an eye-opening experience. It’s given me the urge to work even harder to get to this level,” he said.
From a physical standpoint alone, the summer workouts have been beneficial. “After my junior year, I weighed 205. At the end of my senior season, I was 192. That’s about what I was when I got here. I weighed today and I’m down to 180,” Stuen said in an interview on Tuesday.
After a few days back home in Henderson, Stuen will leave for Florida on Aug. 22. At IMG, he will take six hours of online college classes but his focus will be basketball and the academy’s rigorous practice sessions and a full schedule of games around the country.
Loren Jackson, who coached on the high school and prep school level in the Chicago area, is the head coach of IMG’s post-graduate team. “Ford is a great shooter with a high basketball IQ. I am excited to have him in our program and help him realize his potential,” Jackson said.
The academy’s director is Andy Borman, who was a member of Duke’s 2001 NCAA championship team and is the nephew of Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We are thrilled to have Ford join the IMG Academy basketball program. He is an excellent young man on and off the court. Ford will be an ambassador for our program and whatever college program he decides to join for years to come,” Borman said.