Hundreds of people were calling the Hogs inside the Magnolia High School's Performing Arts Center (MPAC) Sunday afternoon after basketball standout Derrian Ford signed an NCAA Division I letter-of-intent to play with Eric Musselman and the Arkansas Razorbacks.
It was not only signing day for the future Hog, but it was Ford's 18th birthday.
He said the University of Arkansas was like family, which was one reason he chose the Razorbacks over several other major college offers, including Baylor, Kansas, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and LSU.
"I don't think another college could've gotten me except for Arkansas. I feel like I'm at home there," he said. "I am comfortable with my decision and excited about my decision."
The four-star, two-time state most valuable player, said there are still some areas of his game he has to improve on.
"I do feel like I've been putting in a lot of hard work to become a better overall player. But I know I've got to improve my on-ball defense," he said. "I plan to keep working hard and enjoy my last year of high school. Magnolia is a great community and I couldn't have asked for anything better or be anywhere else."
Hundreds of fans, family and friends gathered in the MPAC for an event that started at 5:03 p.m.
Answering the 5:03 p.m. start time question, Ford said he had always wore No. 3 before getting No. 20.
"Three has always been special to me. But the 3 now has to do with our family brand and it represents One God, One Faith and One Baptism. We have God in everything we do. So I had to put the 5:03 in there, because it's very important to me," explained the player.
Over the summer, Ford said, "I put in a lot of hard work to get to this point. I want to thank all the coaches for showing great interest [in] me ... with that being said, I will be committing to the University of Arkansas."
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior averaged 23.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.0 assist a. year ago. He has led the Panthers to back-to-back state titles, and to the Class 4A semifinals last season.
According to ESPN, Ford is the No. 13th ranked shooting guard and the No. 68 overall recruit in the nation for the 2022 class. He was awarded the Gatorade Arkansas Player of the Year and maintains a 4.0 grade point average.
Arkansas' Musselman and his staff have now signed all five 2022 commitments, which ESPN rates as the No. 3 class nationally behind Kentucky and Duke.
"Derrian Ford is a physically imposing player with great work ethic," ESPN National Recruiting Director Paul Biancardi said in a Gatorade press release. "He combines a unique blend of strength, speed and skill to score. His finishing ability against 'help defenders' is fantastic. His ability to play off two feet in the paint with control, balance and explosiveness is special."
His high school coach, Ben Lindsey, said Ford's "super power" is his consistency.
"I see his mental toughness everyday. He does the same exact thing everyday. A lot of people get punched in the mouth and back up, but not Derrian. He keeps coming back. He's the first one there and the last one to leave. He guards the other team's best player and they have their best player on him. He's the definition of consistency," Lindsey told the crowd. "That's everyday in the classroom and everyday in practice."
Ford also received special tributes from his father and mother. Both proclaimed how proud they were of their son, his choices in life and his determination to achieve.
In his prepared statement, the athlete thanked everyone who came out. He thanked current athletic director Dyun Long and Coach Mike Miller for giving him a chance to play varsity basketball as a 9th grader.
"Coach Lindsey stayed with me after practices and had confidence in me. I want to thank my teammates for helping me play my game and being great team players," he added.
Ford also thanked his family, saying his mother plays several roles that go unnoticed by everyone. He called his father his best friend and trainer, who pushes him to be the best.
"Momma, you are a strong woman. I love you. Dad, you taught me everything I know about basketball. You also taught me so much about life," he added. "He knows me better than anybody."
As to what it meant to experience the moment in front of hundreds of people, Ford said he was grateful.
"I don't think I will ever have another moment like this again," he said.
Being among one of the talented young recruits by Musselman at Arkansas, Ford said he believes everyone will come in, work hard and look to contribute in anyway they can.
"I believe all of us will be competing to make each other better, and prepare to face other opponents on the court. I'm ready for the moment, but I'm not going to rush anything. I just want to enjoy every moment I have here with Magnolia basketball," he said.
The Panthers are scheduled to tip off the new season Monday at Arkansas High in Texarkana, which will be followed by their first home action Dec. 7 against Lake Hamilton.