Khaliq Ford made it a habit to head to the gym in the morning and work on his shooting during the past offseason.
Ford is now averaging 21.2 points per game and is the leading scorer for Millville High School's boys basketball team. Stepping up his game has made everyone around him better and has helped Millville to a 6-1 record to start the season.
Ford's 3-point shooting has improved the most. Through seven games, the senior point guard has 25 3-pointers, which leads his team.
"He's been shooting the ball very well," coach Mike Jones said over the phone before Tuesday's game. "He's been working very hard in the offseason on his shooting, 3's in particular. That's a big improvement of his. He's always been a slasher type of player, but that kind of added to his repertoire."
Ford helped his team in a different way later that night.
In Tuesday's 61-58 win over Egg Harbor Township, the Bolts overcame an 11-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Ford sank a pair of free throws with 4 seconds left to give the Eagles a 59-58 lead.
"I just wanted to help my team out any way I can," Ford said Tuesday night. "I just want to make everybody around me better."
Jones said that in the last few games for Millville, he's noticed and improvement in scoring from everyone else on the court. With teams keying in on Ford, it's allowed fellow seniors like Roberto Rivera, Kelvin Tull and Terron Mitchell to contribute and be as dangerous as Ford offensively.
Most recently, Ford's threat to score enabled his co-captain Rivera to take over in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's game to score 11 of the Bolts' 23 points in their comeback win over EHT.
Though Ford is the top offensive player for Millville, Jones has noticed a major improvement in his defensive game, which has transitioned into his offensive production. Heading into Tuesday's game, Ford had 25 steals.
"We talked at the end of last year about working on his footwork and improving his shot, and he really did," Jones said. "He worked on it really hard in the offseason through AAU and our summer league.
"He also worked hard to get better defensively, and those things he's had the most improvement from last year to this year in his game."
Ford added that it was during those sessions in which he improved on other areas of his game.
"I also worked on my dribbling with my AAU coach," Ford said. "He would have me shoot like 50 shots a day at practice."
Ford joins nine seniors who returned to Millville this season, which includes Rivera, Tull and Mitchell.
"We've been playing for four years together, and we all know each other so well so it's making it a lot easier on everyone else," Ford said.
Millville is playing in the very tough Cape-Atlantic League American Division.
Its win over EHT, another American Division team, helps in Millville's pursuit of the postseason. It's biggest test will come soon when the Bolts play Atlantic City and Holy Spirit.
Millville plays the Vikings for the first time on Jan. 31. They will look to avenge a 61-48 loss to Holy Spirit from Jan. 7 when they host the Spartans on Feb. 4.
"We just have to keep doing what we're doing and get better as a team every day," Ford said.
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