By Jason Elmquist
Every sports team looks for one. That spark plug that comes into the game to recharge a flat team.
For the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team, that has fallen on freshman Phil Forte.
The rookie guard from Flower Mound, Texas, has quickly become OSU’s sixth man, and is relishing every minute of it.
“I kind of get the chance to see how the game is going and get a sense of the flow and where everything is going on,” Forte said. “I’m able to use that to my advantage, knowing what I need to do within everything going on. That’s what I’m liking about it.”
Forte is quickly becoming one of the top 3-point shooters in the Big 12 Conference. He is ninth in the Big 12 in 3-point field goal percentage (35.3) and is fifth in 3-pointers made — averaging two long-range buckets per game.
“I feel good putting him in. I have so much confidence in putting him in,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “He gives us something coming off the bench that can stretch the defense."
Even more impressive about his perimeter shooting is that he is the only player in the top five in 3-pointers made that has yet to start a game. He is also the only freshman in the top five, while he is one of only two freshmen in the top 15 in percentage — the other being University of Kansas freshman Ben McLemore with 37.5 percent.
“His best days are ahead of him. He’s still figuring things out, like how to get his shot off at this level,” Ford said. “But it’s only going to get better for him, no question.”
Forte isn’t just about hitting the occasional momentum-swinging 3-pointer. At his size — a generous 5-foot-11, 195 pounds — he understands that he has to do more than simply make shots in order to stay on the court.
“At my height, and the fact that I don’t have the athletic ability of most Division I athletes, for me to compete at the level I want to compete at, I have to do those small things. If I don’t, then I’ll be exposed,” said Forte.
To his teammates, Forte is the consummate team player. He easily could have gone to another university where he could have been a starter from day one — having received scholarship offers from Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa and Texas Tech, as well as mid-major Southern Methodist.
Forte said he actually prefers getting the chance to come off the bench, instead of being thrust into a role where he has to be the top scoring threat.