St. Mary's athlete passionate about basketball and chess

MORAGA (KTVU) -- Basketball has always played a huge part in the life of Jordan Ford but he has another passion that is just as strong.

"I was a chess champion (and) state champion in California when I was in kindergarten and second grade," he said. "I didn't go to pre-school so I was stuck playing chess (and) I enjoyed that a lot more. I trained probably 20 hours a week doing it so people don't actually understand how much time went into it."

The bulk of Jordan's time is now spent on the basketball court but he hasn't forsaken his love of the board, which has become a fixture in the Gaels’ locker room.

"In the pre-season every day after practice we had at least one chess game going," said freshman guard Tommy Kuhse. "We figured out he was a two-time state champ in chess. Of course, everybody wanted to challenge him (but) I don't think too many people were successful."

Said Ford: "I usually win. I'm probably like 50-2."

The connection between chess and basketball might not be so obvious, but there is a critical mental component to both – especially for a point guard, whose job it is to run the offense.

"I can see plays ahead and the defenders, if they reach a certain way, then I am able to react," Ford said. "Just like a chess board, I have to be able to see like moves ahead and know what's gonna happen."

"From a coach's perspective it's great, it's really not dissimilar to the game of basketball where someone puts up an issue, a problem, and we've got to try and find a solution," said assistant coach Marty Clarke. "I’d actually like to put them on the clock and make them do it really quickly."

And there is another connection between the two games: Both competitions get the competitive juices flowing.

"Oh yea, there was a lot of trash talking," Kuhse said. "Mostly by Ford because he was the one who could back it up, but we tried to compete with him in that department."

"It's certainly a source of pride," Clarke said. "We know when they come out on the court who has beaten whom, and how much they won or lost by (and) who threw chess pieces all over the room."