ATHENS -- A lanky, braid-haired Cameron Forte grew up idolizing Allen Iverson. He was growing at a pace likely to eclipse Iverson’s 6-foot frame and never played the point guard position. But Forte loved the way Iverson carried himself and his passion for the game.
Forte, now a forward on the Georgia basketball team, was a big fan of one of the smoothest point guards in the league.
The junior from Tempe, Arizona, was nicknamed “Smoothie” by a childhood friend, and his Twitter handle isendattr val="ctrack"/>But there is little that is smooth about his game.
“He has a knack of making baskets,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “He really has a skill to finish plays. It’s awkward and doesn’t look like everyone else, but per minute, he’s a productive player.”
While his game turned out to be nothing like Iverson’s, Forte does the display certain traits of his childhood icon. When fans tune in to Georgia’s road game against Texas A&M on Wednesday, they likely will see Forte pumping his fists on the sideline for his teammates in the state where he began his college basketball journey.
“I think it’s just my passion for the game,” Forte said. “I just love being there for my teammates, and I’ve always had that energy in me.”
Forte always has displayed that energy, and his hard work was exemplified in his high school statistical line when he averaged 36.2 points per game and 12.7 rebounds per game as a senior at McClintock High School in Tempe, Arizona. He was twice named to the All-Arizona team by the Arizona Republic and was named the area player of the year as a junior by the East Valley Tribune.
Even during his scoring sprees, Forte was always one to reach out to his teammates and provide energy on the floor.
“He was definitely kind of the life of the party and liked to have fun,” said Richard Obert, who covered Forte in high school for The Republic. “You could see that he was a very outgoing, extroverted kid. He always had something to say. I don’t think he would talk smack, but was a real popular kid that would talk a lot. He was always trying to build up his teammates.”
But as good of a teammate as he could be, Obert described Forte as a player who could sometimes “march to his own drum.”
Forte committed to Texas Tech out of high school to play for head coach Billy Gillispie. The junior said that he and Gillispie constantly butted heads, and after never seeing the court, Forte transferred to Northern Arizona.
His journey was knocked off path again when he was denied a hardship request at Northern Arizona, and Forte decided to attend Howard Community College in Texas, where he averaged 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 2012.
Forte is now on his fourth college as part of Georgia’s team, but as much as he has changed colleges, he has been able to change with them. The Tempe native no longer needs the offense to run through him and is content with being a role player.
“I think (he is excelling at) being an energy guy that comes off the bench and give a couple sparks in the first half and get a couple of easy buckets,” Forte said. “Maybe the same for the second half.”
Due to injuries to sophomores Juwan Parker and Kenny Paul Geno, as well as Marcus Thornton missing two games due to a concussion, Forte has been one of the Bulldogs’ most prominent role players in the past couple of weeks.
This season, Forte is averaging nine minutes per game, 2.7 points and 1.6 rebounds. While his numbers might not reflect the importance of his play, Fox believes the junior is having a good season.
“Cam has helped our team,” Fox said. “He has a unique ability to makes plays, and it never fails that he finds ways to impact the game. He’s had more good plays than bad plays.”
Even as his game continues to improve, Forte likes to keep things light at practice and in the locker room.
“He’s just a good person to be around,” junior guard Kenny Gaines said. “He is just light-hearted, likes to joke and make sure everyone isn’t taking basketball too serious. We don’t want to get too stressed out. He will make a joke in the middle of a team huddle, and Coach might get mad, but that’s just Cam.”