FORT WAYNE – The big man thanks his teammates now, for not taking the opening. Heaven knows it was there.
He was, after all 6-foot-9, 295 pounds of occupied space, and the space he was brought in to occupy – the low blocks – was precious indeed for Tony Jasicks IPFW basketball team. But junior forward Steve Forbes had spent most of the previous two seasons away from that space, so the game shape was slow in coming.
No one, however, saw fit to point that out, at least in the way teammates sometimes will.
My teammates were great, Forbes says. They werent really dogging me out and stuff at the beginning about being out of shape and all that. It was a process, but since I got my legs back, its been good.
That happened, almost immediately, even after an injury kept Forbes out two seasons ago and he sat out last season after transferring to IPFW.
He figures it only took a couple of games before he felt comfortable again in a game situation.
The first game it was really hard to get my second wind and everything, but after that, everything just came together, he says.
As it has for the Mastodons, who are 9-4 after pounding SIU-Edwardsville by 20 last week, and now come to a rematch with Eastern Illinois (3-7) today as the No. 25 team in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, the first time in school history theyve been ranked in a poll that includes Wichita State, Gonzaga and Harvard.
I think its great for obviously our guys, its great for our school and also I think its really good for our community to be recognized on a level with some of the storied programs that are in that poll, Jasick said. When you look at it from an athletic department or a university standpoint, when we went Division I 10 or 11 years ago, this is kind of what they looked at as kind of one of the exciting things they were hoping to do.
And now, on to Eastern Illinois, whom the Mastodons beat 71-65 on the road Nov. 27, and whose scheduling for a rematch was no accident.
It was done intentionally to give our guys the same feel that theyll get during league play, says Jasick, whose teams Summit League opener is Jan. 9 against North Dakota State. Whether you win or lose the first game, how do you prepare for game two, things of that nature.
Jasick characterizes Eastern Illinois as a tough, physical team that denies defensively and will require a lot of the same aggression and balance on offense the Mastodons displayed in the second half against SIU-Edwardsville. Led by Luis Jacobos 20 points, the Mastodons put five players in double figures, including 10 in 16 minutes from Forbes, who had 19 points and eight rebounds in the previous meeting with Eastern Illinois.
Not that points are necessarily his thing, nor have to be on this team.
I dont really care about points and all that, says Forbes, who averages 11.1 points and 5 rebounds and leads the team with 11 blocked shots. If I draw a double, I kick it out, and Im confident my teammates will knock it down.
I get in trouble with coach because I pass too much, sometimes. But thats always been a thing of mine.