On Forgetting Phil Forte III: Please Don’t

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 17th, 2016

There was a fight for a loose ball. Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte III dove on to the hardwood, extending his arm in an effort to get a paw on the ball. A Towson player also dove for the ball, landing squarely on Forte’s vulnerable left arm. His entire arm hurt from the impact, but it was the elbow that bore the brunt of the pain. The date was November 19, 2015. After starting the team’s first three games of the new season, Forte would go on to miss the remainder of last season with nary a thought about whether his head coach, Travis Ford, would return.

An elbow injury caused Phil Forte III to miss all but three games last season. (Mic Smith/Associated Press)

An elbow injury caused Phil Forte III to miss 29 games last season. (Mic Smith/AP)

The inevitable coaching change occurred. Ford was fired after a miserable 3-15 Big 12 season and Brad Underwood was brought in to restore Oklahoma State’s legitimacy as a basketball program with frequent forays into March. On the day Underwood was unveiled as the new head couch, Forte told the media that he too, indeed, would be back in Stillwater this fall. “It’s these teammates,” he told reporters on March 23. “It’s the fans. It’s the community. It’s Stillwater. I just can’t see myself going anywhere else. I can’t see myself putting on another jersey, another uniform.” Last week, the Big 12 Conference released its list of preseason superlatives for the 2016-17 season. Everything looked fine. The All-Big 12 team looked fine. Its conference freshman and player of the year picks looked fine. There was not one name on the list that you could argue did not deserve the early acclaim. However, there was one name that deserved to be grouped in with the others but was somehow missing altogether from the press release: Phil Forte III.

It’s a little strange that a player of his caliber would be omitted. Forte’s three-year career speaks for itself: a player who has scored 1,307 career points, made 238 three-pointers, averaged 15.0 points per game in his last full season, and will likely be a starter for one of the best Big 12 backcourts. Not to mention that Forte was named a Big 12 Honorable Mention selection at this time a year ago. To be fair, though, many probably forgot that the redshirt senior was still on the roster. Perhaps the combination of getting hurt so early last season along with the coaching change led Big 12 pundits to think he had either used up his eligibility or decided to finish his career elsewhere.

That part makes sense. Even if it is still a mistake. Underwood’s first season of a rebuild is likely to be a struggle, but with the senior leadership and bombs-away mentality of Forte on the perimeter, at least it is likely to be more fun.

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