LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) – It felt like old times as Eddie Ford walked into the Kentucky Expo Center.

“Coming back here,” said the 72-year-old.  “It didn’t feel that much different.”

But times had changed.

Ford didn’t come for work Thursday. Instead he came to reminisce.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing the people I’ve seen before. It is what it is,” said Ford.

Ford is no longer the owner of the Kentucky Hoopfest, the nation’s oldest boys travel basketball tournament. After 35 years, he sold the event last winter to the Kentucky State Fair Board.

“I was missing games my grandson was playing in,” said Ford. “I said ‘I’m going to look back and realize I shouldn’t have stayed in it this long.”

Ford began the tournament back in 1980. Over the years, he’s watched it grow from nine teams to as many as 300 teams.  

“He started Kentucky basketball before we had the AAU circuit like we have now,” said Scott Chalk, who worked for Ford and still works for the tournament. “Eddie was summer basketball before there was summer basketball.”

The transition between Ford and the new owners has been challenging. Ford says there are a third as many teams playing this year compared to last year. Still, he’s confident the tournament will live on for years to come.

“I always felt it was a good tool to participate in because one, they get exposed and two they play against other players they’ve never played before. “That makes you a better player. “

The game goes on.

But Ford’s impact on Kentucky basketball will never be forgotten.

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