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.
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.