Hungry For Hoops: North’s Ferguson family thriving on basketball

As Paul Ferguson’s sons progressed to the age where he would be their basketball coach, he started receiving advice from others who have coached their kids.

The consensus from those coaches was that they tried to focus on basketball at practices and games, but leave it there when they went home if the kids had other things they wanted to talk about or do. Ferguson’s kids, though, are hoops junkies, and not talking about basketball really isn’t an option.

“I asked for some advice as I was getting ready to go into this, and they said, ‘You have to be able to wear your coaching hat, and then when you get home, you have to put your Dad hat on,” Ferguson said. “That was good advice, but for us, I think that they really like to discuss the games and practices at home and like to break it down and analyze it. They’re always really hungry to watch film.”

Ferguson is in his eighth year as boys basketball coach at Columbus North, and this might be his best shot at winning a sectional title. Among his starters is his oldest son Ty, a senior guard.

“I’m extremely honored to have him as my coach,” Ty said. “There’s pros and cons to it. We maybe butt heads sometimes, but it’s all love, and we just have a great connection.”

Two other sons, sophomore Ben Ferguson and freshman Caleb Ferguson, are on the Bull Dogs JV squad.

“It’s been a ton of fun,” Ben said. “I’m having a great time. I get to have my younger brother now on JV, so it’s just cool to see him play. We know each other so well, so it definitely helps on the court.”

“It’s been awesome,” Caleb added. “All the upperclassmen have helped me, and the practices are really competitive and I feel like it’s really helped me grow my game. I consider my brothers my best friends, and it’s awesome having best friends on the same basketball team as you. My dad being my coach, I feel like that’s really cool because after the games, I get to talk to him about what I saw, what I felt and how I felt like the game went.”

Columbus North coach Paul Ferguson talks with his team doing a timeout against Terre Haute South at Columbus North, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.

The Republic file photo

Paul said the four of them generally watch the varsity film together, but sometimes, Ben and Caleb will watch the JV film.

“We have kind of a family tradition that after the games, we all go home and watch the film,” Paul said. “It’s really fun to hear how they see the game and read the game. It actually helps me, also, listening to them. I give them a little critique, but they tend to give me a lot of critique about things that I maybe didn’t do well in the game, so there’s definitely a lot of back and forth there. But all three of them have really high basketball IQs and really love to study the game. You see one aspect of us here at practice and games. They’re really passionate about that, but they also put the time in at home. They’re really analyzing film and growing their basketball IQ.”

While he was an undergrad at Notre Dame, Paul was a student assistant coach and Fran McCaffery was the top assistant under John MacLeod. Paul and McCaffery, who now is the head coach at Iowa, where he coaches his two oldest sons and has a third son headed there to play next year, have remained close.

“I’ve always looked forward to coaching my boys,” Paul said. “I spent many years having the great opportunity to coach a lot of other people’s sons, and I’ve always kind of looked forward to the day when I got to coach my own boys. One of my mentors is Fran McCaffery, and it’s been interesting to hear him talk about coaching his sons, too. I’ve been over at their house and watching how they like to break it down together and discuss the game. I always kind of hoped to have that same relationship with my sons, and it’s been fun to be able to do that.”

Columbus North’s Ty Ferguson passes the ball against Terre Haute South at Columbus North, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.

The Republic file photo

Ty, who averages 9.1 points and a team-high 3.9 assists per game, is one of five senior starters and six seniors overall for a North team that is 11-5. Those seniors grew up playing in Paul’s Columbus Revolution travel program.

“It’s definitely been a real enjoyable year, especially with all my buddies who I’ve played Revolution with all the years since we moved here,” Ty said. “We’re the senior leaders now, us six seniors that have played together for awhile. It’s our last year together playing basketball, so we’ve really embraced it and tried to make it a really fun year. We have really good chemistry on our team this year.”

Ty has especially enjoyed being able to practice against his brothers and watch them play in JV games.

“It’s been really enjoyable being able to ride to practices together and go home after games and then be able to compete against them in practice,” Ty said. “We’ve been competing against each other our whole lives, so it’s nothing different. It’s fun to be able to play against them in practice. I really enjoy it. It’s something not everyone gets to experience all the time, and it’s a one-year experience. I’m gone next year, and they’ll get to get to play together next year. But it’s been fun with all three of us in high school together.”

Ben and Caleb played together on Columbus Hawks team that won the Gold Ball at the homeschool national championships in 2019. They have had the opportunity to learn not only from their father coaching, but from watching Ty play.

“I definitely look up to him and his game,” Ben said.

“Watching Ty play, I feel like it helps my game grow because watching how smart he is and the plays he makes and how he’s encourages his teammates, I feel like that’s something I can really grow in,” Caleb added.

Paul and his wife Michelle have three younger children. Sam is a sixth-grader who plays on St. Peter’s seventh-grade team. James is a second-grader who plays for third-grade Revolution team. Annie, the youngest — and the only girl — is 5 years old.

“Annie likes to play basketball in the basement, but is mainly more of a cheerleader right now,” Paul said.

Ty is looking at Wheaton College, which is where Paul coached before coming to Columbus.

“I’m hoping to play college basketball somewhere,” Ty said. “I’m not 100 percent sure yet. I have some options, and we’ll see what happens.”

Ty wants to major in business management with minor in entrepreneurship, but he also said he would like to stay involved with basketball, maybe as a coach down the road. Ben and Caleb both nodded in agreement when asked if their future might include coaching basketball like their father.

For now, though, they’re happy to be playing for him.

“He’s been my coach my entire life, even growing up,” Ty said. “We would go drive to games together, whether it was soccer or basketball, he’s always been there for me, and it’s kind of the icing on the cake being my last year and having him as a coach. My and my buddies have been playing under him for a long time now, so it’s been really special. I feel like our team, because of our bond and the chemistry we have, it’s really grown our team and our connection with our coaching staff.”