By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Saturday home games continue to be good to Oklahoma State Unversity’s Phil Forte.
The freshman guard from Flower Mound, Texas, has had three of his biggest shooting performances the past two Saturdays, with the latest being a career game against West Virginia — scoring 26 points, to best a previous high of 22 — as he went 6 for 11 from 3-point range.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound shooting guard who has received comparisons to former OSU shooting great Keiton Page — due to both his shooting ability and stature — has been gaining confidence from his players to shooting the ball more often.
“I tell him to go out there and play the game. He works on his shot 24/7, staying in the gym,” junior Markel Brown said after the Texas Tech game in which Forte scored 19 points and was 4 for 7 from 3-point range. “So I’ve told him that if he’s going to work so much on his shot why not shoot it in the game.”
Forte added, “That’s my role on the team. And when you have a guy like Markel, and all of the other guys are the same way, if I pass up a shot they get mad. It’s easy to go out there and shoot it when you have teammates who believe in you.”
Following Saturday’s game, Brown even jokingly called the freshman “Keiton.”
While Page eventually worked his way as both an outside shooter and a slasher — though mostly out of necessity as the top scoring threat for OSU — Forte has been able to just focus on taking shots from the perimeter.
In his past three games, Forte has taken just four shots from inside the 3-point arc, while attempting 24 shots from long range. But at 5-11, he said sometimes there’s reason behind that.
“The closer you get to the basket, the bigger the trees get,” Forte said. “I’m only 5-11, so I’ll just take my odds with the 3-point shot.”
At times, Forte appears to take that to an extreme. In Saturday’s victory over West Virginia, Forte hit a 3-pointer from the end of the OSU logo at midcourt. But apparently it’s a shot he works on regularly.
“I was probably almost two feet short of halfcourt and Markel was like, ‘Shoot it!’ That’s just the kind of confidence they have in me,” Forte said. “I practice that shot a lot, so the guys have seen me do it — it’s nothing really big. But when I got knock a three down like that, hopefully it can get the crowd into it a little more.”
According to his teammates, there is reason for him taking shots from so far out.
“We can never give him space. As soon as he crosses halfcourt, somebody has to be on him,” Brown said. “He’ll take deep shots all the time in practice. So it was very normal to me when he shot it.”
Forte changed his jersey number to 13 starting in Saturday’s game due to an oversight that his previous number of 10 was actually retired two years in memory of the 10 members who died in the plane crash Jan. 27, 2001. One day shy of the 12-year anniversary, Forte understood the need to change numbers — and appears happy with his success with the new number.
“I can’t complain, 13 worked well today. I’m going to stay with that number. I understand the circumstance, it’s out of my control, and there’s nothing I could do about it and it’s for a good reason,” Forte said.
“It was the only extra jersey they had, so that’s the reason I got 13. They told me if I wanted to change it next year I can, but as for now I play on keeping it.”