After a forgetful 2016 campaign resulting in a 15-18 record, the Mountaineers men’s basketball team had no choice but to hit the recruiting trail in search for help. This was found in the form of a 6 feet, 2 inches tall guard named Justin Forrest from Greenforest McCalep Christian Academy in Decatur, Georgia. Forrest had an extremely successful high school career, where he was once named first-team all-state and led his team in back-to-back state championships during his junior and senior seasons.
“His confidence, his swagger and his skill set. He’s been around the game with his father being a great player at Georgia Tech. All these things factor into the recruiting process,” Coach Jim Fox said.
The traits that got Forrest recruited to App State have shown immensely through his first year on campus. Forrest routinely shows the confidence he possesses while playing, often leading the team down the court and showing no hesitation when it came to putting up his shots. His skill set was also on full display in his first year leading the team with 42 steals and finishing second on the team with 13.5 points per game behind team leader junior guard Ronshad Shabazz.
“It’s made me become a leader. He’s been here the past two years and is the leader of this team, and he’s forced me to be vocal and accountable on and off the court,” Forrest said. “The work ethic, you have to start working harder in college playing back-to-back games makes you take better care of your body a lot better.”
The transition from high school to college is often seen as a huge obstacle, especially for athletes as they become accustomed to the speed of the college game. Oddly this is where Forrest has excelled, often not even looking like a freshman on the court. He gives teammate and fellow guard Shabazz credit for helping with his smooth transition.
Shabazz in his third year provided Forrest with a template to model his game after and pushed him to step up and be a leader not only on the court but off the court as well.
On top of this, Forrest embraced the idea of a hard work ethic during the transition. Forrest understood that college basketball would impose many more challenges than high school such as back-to-backs and long road trips. To counteract these challenges, taking care of the body is vital which is something Forrest takes great pride in.
“We can’t get him to be quiet, he’s always talking. Normally freshmen are shy, but he’s just the opposite. A great teammate and locker room guy,” Coach Lentz said.
His locker room leadership has been as equally as impressive as any other accomplishments he has had. No matter the scenario or the struggles Forrest faced, one thing remained steady, his vocalized leadership. As a freshman, it is rare to see such a vocal player, but this is exactly what Forrest provided. During the rough stretches of the season he was always bringing in a positive attitude and trying everything to right the ship.
In a season in which the Mountaineers needed a rebound, they got it. While the record may not have improved, they were able to add good young talent that will grow and progress in their system. Forrest will return with an entire offseason of development and a full season of experience under his belt. The pairing of a more experienced Forrest with another strong recruiting class, and all but one starter from last year’s squad, the Mountaineers could be a team to watch in 2018.
Story By: Chase Frick, Sports Reporter
Photos By: Lynette Files, Intern Photographer