The St. Paul Central community showed up at the high school’s gymnasium on Saturday, January 21, to honor one of its own. Former Minutemen student-athlete Dion Ford, a 2019 graduate who was killed in a shooting last March, was honored with the first annual basketball classic in his name called the Dion Ford Showcase.
Three games were played as each team wore T-shirts commemorating Ford. Coaches sported T-shirts as well during the games.
Despite the violence that occurred during the week prior to Saturday’s event, school officials and coaches decided that the Dion Ford Classic would go on as planned. “The event had to go on because of the person and who he was,” said Central head boys’ basketball coach Scott Howell.
“You have to rise above that and still remember the person that he was and the legacy he left, “ he continued. “We don’t want to forget who he was.”
Ford left quite the legacy as a student-athlete. “You’re talking about a 1,000-point scorer in basketball and a 1,000-yard rusher in football,” Howell said with enthusiasm. “He was just a fun-loving guy who was easy to coach.”
Ford led the boys’ basketball team to the St. Paul City championship and Twin City title as a senior in 2019 and was studying engineering at Augsburg University at the time of the shooting.
When questioned about the importance of going on with the Dion Ford Showcase, first-year Central High School Principal Cherise Ayers echoed Howell’s sentiment that the event was a must. “Absolutely,” she said. “In the face of the tragedies that we experienced in our communities recently, it is still important.”
Ayers continued, saying that although she wasn’t principal at the time Ford was a student, his legacy will forever be present. “I didn’t know Dion, but his legacy is something that permeates the halls. It is in the heart of everyone who knew him, who taught and coached him and worked with him at Central.”
The showcase featured basketball games in which High Ground Academy defeated St. Paul Harding (87-83), St. Paul Johnson topped Minneapolis Henry (77-44), and St. Paul Central beat South St. Paul (76-74).
Former St. Paul Central boys’ basketball great Ronnell Porter, Ford’s teammate, had plenty to say about him as he watched his former team compete in the final game of the showcase. “He was a good teammate,” Porter said.
“Overall, it was a blessing—from us becoming friends at five-years-old, to the basketball player he became,” he said. “It was truly amazing.”
Judging from the sizable crowd and enthusiasm, the Dion Ford Showcase—where it was announced that his No. 3 jersey would be retired—was a success. The proceeds of the Dion Ford Showcase will go towards a scholarship in his name.
“I want to thank everyone who came out today,” Howell said. “This was bigger than we thought it would be.”