Basketball League







Resilient McCord finds challenges at every turn

Mark Woods

John McCord's arrival in the Scottish capital this summer wasn't about money. It John McCord wasn't even about ambition. His motive centred around one thing - friendship, with Ted Berry to be exact. A bond which is expected to pay dividends for the Edinburgh Rocks.

The pair have hooked up on and off the court, comrades in arms sharing a waterfront apartment in Edinburgh. You can almost picture their All Star MVP trophies perched side by side on top of the television. According to Berry, they even take turns with the cooking and washing up.

Coach Jim Brandon is looking for some of this domestic harmony to spill over onto the parquet and McCord is happy to admit that his buddy was key to his Meadowbank move.

"I had bigger offers from Japan but I came here for one reason - Ted Berry. Sometimes you meet a person and see a bit of yourself in them. He never used to speak to people and I was the same way. 

"The first time I played against him when he was with Derby, he killed us and I wanted to know who this little guy was. At the All-Star game, we talked.  Last year, we stayed in contact over the phone.  He's a great character and I'm still amazed at what he can do on the court. We have a lot of the same goals.

"He's a great character and I'm still amazed at what he can do on the court."


If McCord has found harmony in Edinburgh, it will contrast with his college days where challenges and hurdles were everyday occurrences. His collegiate formation came not at one of the traditional sporting universities but instead at Cornell, one of America's elite Ivy League institutions. 

He admits that although studies always took priority over sporting endeavour, his path to a professional career in his chosen field was not a smooth one.

"Basketball was never a major part of John McCord's life. I never played it at high school other than in pick up games. I was always strictly into the books but after my grandmother passed away, I didn't do anything. I didn't even go to college until my mother came along and picked me up."

Starting at little Monroe Junior College in New York, McCord's outstanding abilities caught the eye of major powerhouses such as Connecticut and Duke but it was the challenge of testing himself scholastically which drove him instead to Cornell.

"Once I graduated from Monroe, the whole experience of colleges chasing me just blew my mind.  I was tempted to forget the academics and head to a big university. I knew about the cars and the NBA. But my mother told me that I had a great opportunity to go to an Ivy league school. 

"I had the grades to go there but as soon as I had signed, they made me prove I could do the work. One administrator there was trying to find a way for me to fail. So they made me go to summer school for six weeks.

"Then when I got there, they chose my subjects for me. It was just hell to go there and many times, I felt like quitting. But people told me to prove them wrong and I did."

Discussing his travails with officialdom, McCord's resentment of his treatment by his alma mater obviously is still a sore point. He admits that his bitterness towards those who would stand in his way has been quick to surface on visits back to campus.

However, if he had the choice again to make, surprisingly he admits that it would be an identical one.

"I've no regrets over going there. I like the reaction I get when people hear that I went to Cornell. But I ask them - is that because I went to an Ivy League school, played basketball and graduated or is it because I went there as an African American."


One of the most articulate athletes in the game, McCord is clearly a man for whom basketball is just a phase on the route to personal fulfilment. A future which holds both commercial and familial ambition. 

As the new father of a three month old girl, the Bronx boy even hints that this campaign might be his last in Britain. Or indeed anywhere. Which is why the lure of the yen was rejected for the tartan pound.

"I have a little daughter and if I went to Japan, I wouldn't get to see here as often as I do now. I'm only 26 but this might be my last year playing basketball because I want to do other things in my life.

"It's tough and I easily could have quit basketball but I wanted to do the best for my daughter. But I love basketball. There aren't my jobs where you can get paid for two hours a day," he jokes. "But it's hard being away from home. I like to be around my family. 

"I might change my mind if we win a couple of Championships. I could get used to that kind of feeling." 

McCord may be at the top of his game, respected by his peers and feared by his opponents. But like his student days, he still feels he has something to prove. A source of motivation from which he is happy to draw strength.

"No matter what I do in this league, people will still question whether I can play. That doesn't bother me.  I love proving people wrong and that's something my mother taught me. I let my actions speak louder than words."

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