Grind hasn't halted drive
Forbes willing to go extra mile to reach NBA dream
Gary Forbes flies out of San Antonio. Or maybe it's Houston.
It's all a part of the chase.
"You spend more time in airports and hotels than you do on the court," he said.
He lands in Miami. Or maybe it's Milwaukee.
Single-serving friends. Most of them, anyway.
He sees them at every stop. They hate his defense, but his offense makes up for it. They tell him they see a spot for him in tomorrow's NBA draft, if not at the bottom of the first round then somewhere in the second.
One city to another, he hears the same things.
"It's just a grind," he said. "We go to different cities. Same questions. Same type of workouts."
It wears on him.
His brother Anthony gets all the calls. A player himself in his high school days in Brooklyn, Anthony watches the camps when they come on TV and reads the analysis when it shows up on the web. He knows all the things flashing through Gary's mind; Anthony tries to relate, but also to relax.
"Just keep on grinding," he'll say. "Only a couple days left."
Ever since he hoisted the University of Massachusetts on his back in the National Invitation Tournament, helping the Minutemen upset last year's NCAA champion, Florida, on the way to the final, Forbes has been connecting the dots from city to city - 11 altogether - boosting his stock at each checkpoint and trying to sell NBA teams on his ability to score and his potential for playing four positions.
"It's a crazy experience, and I still kind of can't actually believe I'm in the position and could be drafted," he said. "It's a dream come true and I'm happy that I'm in this predicament. From where I came from to where I'm at now, it's just a blessing. So I just hope that on Thursday I hear some good news."
The turning pointJust three years ago, Forbes wasn't even playing basketball. He was sitting out a season after finding out he had developed diabetes, having abandoned a spiraling stint at the University of Virginia and restarted at UMass.
The fact that his dream is now at his fingertips makes the rigors of the chase easier to put up with. The travel. The hotel. The interviews. The microscope.
What kind of person are you?
What do you do in your free time?
Are you the type to keep an entourage?
And when he thinks of his answers and the impact they can have on his future, two words come to mind: politically correct.
He understands that it's an inspection process.
"They do their homework," he said. "They ask you about your personal life and your family. They're investing millions of dollars and they want to make sure they're making the right decision."
Still, somewhere under the pile, when he has gotten opportunities to run the floor, he's pounced on them.
He was the most valuable player of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia in April. Then at the Orlando predraft camp in May, he went on a 30-point, 26-minute scoring binge that still has more than a couple of draft experts buzzing.
Not long after Orlando, the Celtics brought him in, and general manager Danny Ainge was more than impressed with his workout.
"He definitely should be drafted," Ainge said. "He's got good size [6 feet 7 inches, 220 pounds] and strength and toughness and he's a versatile player. He has good size for his position."
Forbes had to develop into the player that Ainge saw, and you can pinpoint the transformation to 2005.
He was still at Virginia, but his college career was at its deepest valley. He found out that the streak of diabetes that ran through his family had made its way to him. The coach that recruited him to Virginia was fired, and the new coach didn't see Forbes the same way.
"I felt like I didn't have the leeway and the opportunity to show my talents," he said.
He decided to transfer to UMass; even if it meant sitting out a year, he'd have a fresh start.
"I just wanted to find a place where I would feel comfortable, where I would be appreciated and where I'd be able to show my talent," he said. "I had a lot more confidence. My coaches just had a lot more confidence in me. Travis Ford just kind of let me go. I had free will and free rein to do most of the things that I'm good at."
Ford said that change was instrumental in getting Forbes to the point he's at now.
"The year he sat out allowed him to get in great shape," said Ford. "Our style of play helped Gary. We let him bring the ball upcourt, shoot threes, post up. He got to use all his skills on the court, and that allowed him to get better."
Once in a lifetimeForbes averaged 19 points and 7.5 rebounds a game for the Minutemen. Almost as soon as he left UMass, so did Ford. But outside of family and close friends, the coach has been one of the handful of people Forbes has called almost every day for advice.
"It's been a whirlwind for him, I know it has, but he's held up well," said Ford. "He's made a tremendous impression on people. They all say he's a good player and a good person, and I think there's definitely a place for him in this draft."
More often that not, though, Forbes is calling his brother.
When they talk, Anthony reminds him that this experience only comes along for a few, and it only comes along once. So even if it's a grind, it's the grind of a lifetime.
"Everything he's going through are all the things that I wanted to go through myself," he said. "And seeing him go through the process is kind of like a dream of mine."
Forbes will land in Maryland on draft day to watch the picks with his brother.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org