Phil Forte will be coming out of retirement in less than four months.
It could be a short-lived second attempt at reviving his basketball career, but he will be doing it with former Oklahoma State teammates.
And, it will be happening in Wichita, Kansas, from July 30 to Aug. 2.
That gives the former Cowboy guard, who owns the program record for 3-pointers made in a career, more than three months to get prepared for his first competitive hardcourt action since his OSU career ended in March 2017.
“I don’t play anymore and I have no regrets,” Forte said. “My time is done and I’ve left it all out there. I’m just here for the ride. But, when it gets down to it and I step out on the court, I know my competitive side will come out and it will be a different deal. Hopefully, my body moves as fast as my body is telling it to. I guess we’ll find out about that.”
For now, one of the most beloved Cowboys in the past decade will be training in north Texas. He’s moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area from Huntsville, Texas, to live with family since the coronavirus pandemic shut down college campuses across the country.
Forte is an assistant coach on the Sam Houston State University men’s basketball team. He is in his first year on the job after two years as a graduate student manager at Saint Louis University under former OSU coach Travis Ford, who coached Forte in Stillwater for four years, which included a redshirt 2015-16 season.
“I’d rather come home to be with my family and friends than be there by myself,” Forte said. “The good thing is I’m in a more familiar area than being in St. Louis. It all worked out pretty well.”
Following his two years with the Billikens, Forte said he was offered a position that would have been similar to a player development role that is held at OSU by Keiton Page – the player Forte passed to become the 3-point record holder for the Cowboys.
Then an opening became available at Sam Houston State to be an assistant coach for a coach he’d known since his high school days of playing alongside current NBA star Marcus Smart.
“It was a no-brainer,” Forte said. “I’m back in the state of Texas where I’m from, and I’ll be on the road recruiting. It definitely all worked out.”
After one season, in which the Bearkats went 18-13, Forte is enjoying his new life in Huntsville.
“It’s been a good experience for me,” Forte said. “There is a huge learning curve as far as being a G.A. to an assistant coach. Obviously, we don’t have the staff that Oklahoma State has or any Power Five schools. You have to wear a few more hats and do a little more, but I get to get on the road and recruit, I get to be on the floor and do scouting reports. It’s definitely helped me out as far as learning, and at the end of the day, I want to be a head coach, so it’s helped me toward that goal.”
Shortly after the Bearkats’ season ended, it was announced that Forte would be joining the Stillwater Stars team for The Basketball Tournament. It’s a team comprised of OSU alumni to play in the single-elimination summer tournament that began in 2014.
He initially wasn’t interested in the offer from former team managers, but Forte began asking former teammates Jeffrey Carroll and Markel Brown to see who might get involved.
“I kind of put it off, but then all of a sudden, I realized I didn’t have anything going on so it might be a good time,” Forte said. “Everyone playing in it, I’ve played with. If you look at the roster, I might be the only one who’s played with every single person. I guess Marshall (Moses) I didn’t play with, but all of the other guys I’ve played with at some point.
“All of our seasons are during the same time, so I don’t get to see those guys very often. This gives me a chance to get my old butt back in shape and see if I still got it. So, it kind of came together slowly but surely. The managers finally wore me down and I decided I might as well do it.”
Brown, Carroll and Forte will be joined by Michael Cobbins, Thomas Dziagwa, Marshall Moses, Le’Bryan Nash, Lindy Waters and Brian Williams. The Stillwater Stars will be playing in Wichita, aiming to become one of eight regional winners to advance to Dayton, Ohio.
The TBT championship week will be Aug. 6-11, ending with a winner-take-all $2 million title game.
“I do like our group,” Forte said. “I think we’ve got a few pieces and got a little bit of everything. Mike coming in gives us an inside presence. All of these guys still play, and that’s what’s funny is when this started to come together, they would text me saying I need to play.
“I don’t play anymore. I quit. I gave this up. I’d tell them I don’t know why you need me, I don’t play for a living. But, I do like our team. I do. We definitely have our hands full, because there are a lot of other good teams, as well, that are just as talented.”
Although he feels good about his teammates, Forte admits he isn’t sure about himself since it’s been three years since he’s played competitively. The fitness aspect might be his tallest hurdle.
“I will say I do a good job of running and staying in shape,” Forte said. “But, as far as playing, I don’t play a whole lot. I really don’t. My first year removed, I did a little bit at Saint Louis, but I really don’t because I’ve always got something else going on. I was joking, saying two weeks before this I might need to have a two-week boot camp where I get back in the gym and get the rust off a bit.”
The sharp-shooting guard made 329 3-pointers in his career, which ranks tied for 106th best in NCAA history. That’s one part of his game he’s not worried about when the TBT begins.
“I’ll always mess around and hop out there with our guys,” Forte said. “They know and they’ll try to challenge me to a shooting contest. That goes on all of the time, so I’m always shooting. Now, as far as playing a full game where you’re playing defense, I haven’t played that in a long time. That’s the thing for those who aren’t familiar with this tournament, there’s really good players in this thing.
“You have some of the best college basketball players that have ever played in the last 10 years that haven’t made it to the NBA. I’m going to have to get my butt in shape. Luckily, I have good players on my team, so I’ll play my role of sitting in the corner and let Markel Brown do what he does and hit me when I’m open, just like I did for two years when I played with him. But, I’m looking forward to it for sure.”
Forte said the OSU alumni team will have a coach, but he isn’t sure who that will be just yet. He also said he hopes OSU fans watch, but maybe lower their expectations of the former guard they loved to watch.
“It will be weird throwing that jersey back on,” Forte said. “I think I’ve heard we’d be playing in Wichita for the first round, so that is close. Through social media, I’ve seen fans say they can’t wait to watch me play again, and I thought I better start to practice. I don’t want this to be how they remember me as an Oklahoma State basketball player.
“For me, it’s fun to be around a bunch of guys I played with and shared so many memories with throughout our careers. To have a chance to play with those guys again is fun. For the fans, it’s always something cool, because there’s not a whole lot going on this time of the year. … Hopefully, I can make a couple shots and not disappoint the Oklahoma State faithful.”