Big 12

Kellis Robinett’s Big 12 Report: Phil Forte proving his worth at Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte leads the Big 12 at 17.7 points per game.
Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte leads the Big 12 at 17.7 points per game. Associated Press

Before Phil Forte arrived at Oklahoma State, he was better known for his friendship with Marcus Smart than his basketball skills.

That perception is beginning to change.

The junior guard, who joined the Cowboys as a package commitment along with Smart, now in the NBA, is the Big 12’s leading scorer (17.7 points) on a team that is surprisingly off to a 12-3 start and ranked 24th.

He has been at his best recently, totaling 82 points and shooting 59.2 percent in his last four games as a tag-team scorer next to Le’Bryan Nash. They both had 20 points in a 69-58 victory over No. 20 Texas on Saturday. That type of production has long been expected from Nash, a former blue-chip recruit that chose Oklahoma State over several heavyweight offers, and it is beginning to feel routine for Forte.

His three-pointers, which sometimes are taken closer to midcourt than the arc, turn into highlights.

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber thinks so highly of Forte that he complimented Wesley Iwundu for his defense against Forte following a loss to the Cowboys in which Forte scored 20 points.

Kansas coach Bill Self said Monday that he recruited both Nash and Forte, and isn’t surprised they have become a potent scoring duo.

Still, the rate at which Forte is scoring was never exepcted.

The 5-foot-11 sharpshooter from Flower Mound, Texas, is doing more than just making threes. He is also slipping past defenders for points in traffic and stepping back to make shots most players wouldn’t bother defending. He is also playing strong defense, as he leads the Big 12 with 2.6 steals per game.

Oklahoma State’s only conference loss came at No. 11 Iowa State by two points. Difficult road games against No. 9 Kansas and No. 18 Oklahoma are up next, but the Cowboys are up for the challenge the way Forte is playing.

Quote of the week

“You can’t win the league in two or three weeks. You have to keep grinding.” – Self

Power rankings

1. Kansas (13-2, 2-0): Looked dominant against Texas Tech. Still, it was Texas Tech.

2. Iowa State (12-2, 2-0): Cyclones opened the Big 12 with two gutsy victories.

3. Oklahoma State (12-3, 2-1): One of the hottest teams around.

4. Oklahoma (11-4, 2-1): Home loss damages conference title hopes.

5. West Virginia (14-2, 2-1): Tough break against Iowa State.

6. Texas (12-4, 1-2): Playing teams outside of Oklahoma will be good for the Longhorns.

7. Baylor (12-3, 1-2): Beating TCU was a must.

8. Kansas State (9-7, 2-1): Foster has turned things around. So have the Wildcats.

9. TCU (13-3, 0-3): Haven’t won a Big 12 game since 2013.

10. Texas Tech (10-6, 0-3): Might be in the Big 12 cellar all year.

Reach Kellis Robinett at Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.