ST. PETERSBURG — Quincy Ford pulls up on the wing, gathers his bony limbs, then rises for and bottoms out a 3-pointer.
Trailing a fast break, Quincy shows off his ability to run the floor, catching up with the action and knocking an attempted layup harmlessly off the glass.
After finishing with a team-high 19 points and leading Gibbs High School to a victory over Tarpon Springs in the Class 5A boys basketball region quarterfinals, Quincy emerges from the locker room to greet a handful of classmates — all family members — including six brothers and sisters.
“It’s great because I have so much support from my family,” Quincy said. “They’re at every game, and wave and give me hugs and high-fives.”
For Quincy, a senior who is one of Pinellas County’s top players, his home is his classroom. He is one of a few athletes in the county to be home schooled and play a major sport for a public school.
Only a decade ago, home-schooled athletes did not have many options on public school teams. They could play on club teams, but their athletic endeavors were considered little more than organized recess for children without traditional classrooms.
Now home-schooled players are tracked by scouts as much as their public-school teammates.
In November, Quincy, who carries a 3.5 GPA, signed with Northeastern University in Boston. His older brother, Skyler, who also played at Gibbs and was home schooled, is a walk-on at St. Petersburg College.
Denise and Alfredo Ford decided to home school their seven sons and three daughters since they were in grade school — not only because they felt they could provide their children with the best education, but so they could share faith and family.
“I took my kids out of Mount Vernon Elementary,” Denise Ford said. “The principal asked why. I said it was because the laws won’t allow the public schools to teach them about Jesus.”
The classroom at the Ford household is the dining room, and Denise starts the lessons around 9 a.m. The Fords also encouraged their children to play sports. Recess begins after school at 3 p.m.
Quincy, the fifth oldest among his brothers and sisters, tried as many sports as possible. But once he grabbed a basketball, nothing else came close.
He honed his skills day and night. Even after darkness fell and his mother called him inside, Quincy stayed out at a nearby park or gymnasium shooting and dribbling.
“I would call other parents to see if their sons played as much basketball as Quincy did,” Denise Ford said. “He played nonstop. Healthy or injured. It didn’t matter. It has always been his passion.”
Basketball has dominated Quincy’s life, his performance determining his disposition, touching everything he thought or did. He had a schedule, a plan, to earn a basketball scholarship. He went to camps and played on AAU teams to get noticed and it worked.
By middle school, Quincy was playing on public school teams. He joined the Gibbs’ junior varsity as a freshman. A 6-foot guard back then, Quincy has grown 7 inches and become the Gladiators’ most versatile — and valuable — varsity player the past two seasons.
He averages 17.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this season.
“Quincy can play every position on the court,” Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. “He’s a great ball handler and can play inside, too. He’s done everything that a player can do at this level.
“And he’s a really great kid. Very coachable. The family has been very supportive for years, too.”
Scouts took notice the past two seasons. Quincy had interest from North-Carolina Wilmington, Stetson and Tulane. He planned to visit those schools but suffered a concussion in September and missed three to four weeks of conditioning.
“It was real big to be able to sign with Northeastern and have my whole family there,” Quincy said.
Now he will try to lead the Gladiators (21-7) past Northeast in Tuesday’s Class 5A region semifinal and into the third round of the playoffs.
If Gibbs can get to the next round, Quincy will have every family member in attendance.
“It’s an exciting time for myself and my teammates,” Quincy said. “All my brothers and sisters plan on traveling to be at the game. So will my parents.”