June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

College basketball: Challenge accepted, Forsythe earns All-America honors in NAIA Division I

Brooke Forsythe answered the call when the University of the Cumberlands women’s basketball team needed her.

The team was hovering around the .500 mark through the first 10 games of the season, but the junior center led a charge that helped the Patriots turn around their season.

So when the former Cloverleaf standout was honored as a NAIA Division I third-team All-American, she looked at it as just doing what needed to be done.

Cloverleaf graduate Brooke Forsythe helped the University of the Cumberlands reach the NAIA tournament. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

Cloverleaf graduate Brooke Forsythe helped the University of the Cumberlands reach the NAIA tournament. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

“I was just surprised because all I wanted to do was contribute to the team’s success,” Forsythe said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Cumberlands headed into January with a 5-5 record and looking for answers. That’s when the 6-foot-3 post took it upon herself to make the season memorable for the Williamsburg, Ky., school.

From finishing plays on the block to ripping down key rebounds, Forsythe, who was in her second season with the Patriots after starting her career at D-I American University, used her consistent play to help the team to a 19-11 record and third straight trip to the NAIA tournament.

“Coming into the season, we were rebuilding, and I think we became more of a team,” Forsythe said. “We had some new people that didn’t know what their roles were exactly, and it took me a while to realize that they needed me to step up and they wanted to get the ball in my hands. That gave me a lot of confidence that they wanted me to be a dominate force.”

Cumberlands won nine of its first 10 games after the calendar turned to 2014. Forsythe scored double-figures in six of those victories, including a season-high 28 points in a win over Shawnee State.

That momentum continued, as she closed the year by scoring at least 11 points in each of the last 15 games.

The 22-year-old finished with a team-high 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, along with 23 blocks and 20 steals in 30 games. She was first-team All-Mid-South Conference, All-Academic MSC and a NAIA Daktronics scholar athlete.

“I had a complete transformation,” she said. “I lost 25 pounds, and I really started to feel faster and stronger. That gave me that confidence. I never really had that before. It all just came to me.

“We brought in an assistant coach (Milan Vujicic) this year, and he told me that I could be one of the top post players. He had me starting to keep a food log every day, and my game changed completely. It was crazy.”

Forsythe has big goals for next year, which includes helping the Patriots make a deep run in the NAIA tournament, and she’s not into taking a long break. She’s already started training for her final season, which includes working out with her brother, University of Akron post Pat Forsythe, during the upcoming spring break.

“This is a big, huge offseason. I’m really excited,” she said. “I can’t take a week off. I’m excited to go home and work out with my brother because he’s gotten bigger and stronger. I’m not going to be comfortable with where I’m at.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.