STILLWATER — Bradley Lewis was worn down, and all the Oklahoma State basketball manager had really done was watch practice.
Then Lewis received his introduction to the Phil Forte regimen.
“It was at the beginning of the year, and we had just had one of those two-a-days, except it wasn't two practices, but one, long 4-hour practice,” said Lewis, a freshman from Grapevine, Texas. “Phil wanted to shoot after that. I was just standing around at practice and I was tired.
“It was probably 9:30 or 10 (p.m.), already. And I was like, ‘What?' That was one of my first times to rebound for him. He's always shooting.”
And, seriously, Forte might be firing up shots this very moment, readying for Wednesday's visit from Iowa State, a team recognized for its quick-trigger gunners.
He may only be in his seventh month on campus, yet Forte's reputation for loitering inside Gallagher-Iba Arena is legendary, with two managers on call at all times.
To call Phil Forte a “gym rat” is to say that Stephen King types.
“Phil lives in the gym,” said Cowboys guard Marcus Smart, who has been Forte's teammate since grade school days.
According to Forte, it's a necessity.
“With my height and my athletic ability,” said the 5-11 freshman guard, “I know I can't just show up to practice and put in my two hours, like some people can. I'm not blessed that way. I was blessed with a hard work ethic.
“And I just know that if I want to compete at the level I want to compete at, I have to do the extra work. Put up extra shots … running, lifting, conditioning, whatever. I have to do all the little things. Eat right — everything — just to give me a slight edge with all the great athletes of the Big 12.”
Forte's shooting stroke is his ultimate edge.
In OSU's 80-66 win over West Virginia Saturday, Forte provided a rallying spark, firing in six 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 26 points. For the season, he's averaging 11.6 points per game as a perimeter marksman off the bench, with 46 makes from beyond the arc in 18 games.
He once went 9-for-9 on 3-pointers during a Texas high school game, taking advantage of a Plano team that kept giving him room to roam.
“I don't know what they were thinking, we'd played them the past two years and they were in our district, so they knew who Phil was,” Smart said. “But I guess they just didn't care. It was unbelievable.
“He just kept shooting. And we kept finding him.”
On this Cowboys team, that is Forte's role — to shoot and keep shooting.
Which for him, isn't really hard, given all the practice.
OSU assigns managers to every player, guys who are asked to show up and rebound and provide passes whenever a Cowboy wants to put in extra work. Most players put in some time.
Forte literally has the GIA facilities man waiting to turn off the lights.
“It's funny, the person who has to turn out the lights is always waiting for him,” Lewis said. “We're like, ‘Only 20 more shots.'”
Forte's regimen isn't defined by shots, but rather makes. During the season, he shoots until he makes 500, with 300 of them 3s. In the offseason, the total number of makes rises to 700.
Seven days a week.
The workout starts with a few free throws, extends to midrange jumpers, then out beyond the 3-point line, where Forte fires away from designated spots all around the arc, like some old game of around the world.
“I've seen him catch fire in one spot and make 15 in a row, like it's nothing,” said Dustin Easterling, the other freshman manager assigned to Forte.
Easterling and Lewis are literally on speed dial — or speed text — with Forte likely to summon them to GIA at any time.
Before and after practice.
After women's games.
After his own games.
“After the TCU game, which wasn't a great shooting game for him (1-of-7 overall, 1-of-5 from the arc), I went in the locker room,” Easterling said. “He came up to me and said, ‘Can you rebound for me later.'
“We went and ate and came back up there about 11:30, 11:45 and shot. We were probably there until about 1, 1:30 (a.m.).”
Lewis and Easterling both claim to love their roles, taking particular pride — and a little bit of credit — whenever Forte goes off like he did against the Mountaineers.
“I really enjoy watching him do great,” Lewis said. “Rebounding for him all week, it's fun to see the shots that we work on.
“I can tell people I know, ‘We worked on that 100 times this week!'”
Said Easterling: “I always tease him in practice. If he misses a shot, I'll walk up to him and say, ‘C'mon, we're in the gym for two hours and you're missing shots?'”
Friendships have formed among the three. And Forte clearly appreciates the sacrifices.
“We have great managers who really work well with me,” Forte said. “I'm fortunate to have that option, to help me be more efficient.”
Except efficiency isn't really good enough for Forte.
“He's like the only person I've met who gets mad on a make,” Lewis said. “If it wasn't a perfect shot, and it'll swish, he'll get mad. I'll ask him, ‘Why are you mad?' He'll say, ‘It didn't come off the way I wanted it to.'
“He wants it to be perfect. And he wants it to be a great shot. I've never heard of anyone getting mad from a make.”
Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State
* When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
* Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
* TV: KOCB-34 (Cox 11/HD 711; Dish 34; DirecTV 34; U-Verse 34/HD1034)
* Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
Three things to know
* The Cyclones take a lot of 3s — leading the Big 12 with 173, or 9.1 per game — and make 36 percent.
* OSU has won 57 of its last 59 games against unranked teams inside Gallagher-Iba Arena
* Iowa State doesn't start a player over 6-7, yet leads the Big 12 in rebounding at 40.8 per game.