STILLWATER — Phil Forte used to cry when Kansas lost.
The son of Phil Forte Sr., a former Jayhawks football player, little Phil used to sit in the Allen Fieldhouse bleachers, decked out in crimson and blue, cooing the Rock Chalk Chant.
So imagine the surreal feeling when Forte stood waiting to run on the floor in Lawrence 2 1/2 weeks ago, and the sounds started to stir inside The Phog.
“I heard the KU fight song and thought, ‘God, I've heard this a thousand times. Now I'm going to take the court against them,'” the Cowboys freshman said this week.
Not just take the court against them, but help slay them, scoring six points in the final 30 seconds of an 85-80 Oklahoma State upset that ended KU's 33-game home winning streak and made a race of the Big 12 regular season.
“Never would I have ever thought I'd be at the free throw line,” Forte said, “trying to ice the game at Allen Fieldhouse. It was just a great experience.”
Even for dad, although not without a few jabs from his pals.
“They told me, ‘Now Phil, don't you be wearing that orange and black in Allen Fieldhouse,'” said Phil Sr. “Of course, I wore it right on in there.”
Still, the scene took some getting used to, for dad and almost anyone who knew the family's life-long allegiances.
“Just before that game, Phillip's middle school coach, whom I'm still friends with today, sent me a text,” said Phil Sr. “He said, ‘I'm watching the little kid who came in to school every day wearing a Kansas Jayhawk t-shirt. And now I'm watching him today wearing orange and going to Allen Fieldhouse to play KU.'”
Then everyone watched as the Cowboys stunned the Jayhawks, with little Phil playing a major role at the end.
Twice in the final half-minute he went to the line to try and expand leads, each time hitting two free throws, bumping OSU's advantage first to 80-76, then later to 83-80. He added the finishing touches, too, on a breakaway layup on a steal and feed by Marcus Smart.
No tears, only smiles.
The experience expands Wednesday, with the No. 14 Cowboys and No. 9 Jayhawks clashing in a high stakes game inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tip time is 8 p.m. for an ESPN2 telecast pitting two teams involved in a three-way tie atop the Big 12 standings with Kansas State at 9-3.
It's a game Forte was always meant for, only seemingly for the other side.
The Jayhawks were in his blood, literally, since his dad and mom, Julie, both went to KU. Father and son followed the Jayhawks often, seeing them lose to Syracuse in the 2003 title game in New Orleans; seeing them lose to UCLA in San Jose in the Elite Eight in 2007; and enjoying the 2008 national title conquest of Memphis in 2008 in San Antonio.
Forte had his chance to be a Jayhawk, too, holding a scholarship offer from KU coach Bill Self.
Except he went against the legacy and all those years of Rock Chalk love to sign with OSU.
“I just didn't think that was the best place for me to go and play,” he said. “I felt like Oklahoma State fit me the best individually. I'd love to say it worked out for the best so far.”
So far, so rewarding.
Still, the offer from KU carried appeal.
“Oh, yeah, it was definitely tempting,” Forte said. “Most people who knew me from back home and have known me a while would have thought I was going to Kansas. Parents went there. Grew up a big fan.
“But I decided to be smart about it, see what was the best choice for me. And that's how I ended up here.”
That decision factors heavily in this Big 12 title chase, not only in Forte's impact, but in the likelihood that Smart would have joined his high school teammate and close friend at KU, since he's on record in saying that they decided to stick together in college.
In the Cowboys, Forte had evidence that a 5-10 shooting guard had a defined role, seeing Keiton Page just complete a stellar career in Stillwater. Besides, the undersized gym rat description also applies to OSU coach Travis Ford.
“Seeing Keiton play and start 3 1/2 years on TV, the things that he did here,” Forte said, “it made me think it was possible that, ‘Hey, if he did it, maybe I can do it, too, here.'
“Coach Ford believes in players like us, who are rare in college basketball these days. That really got my attention and is probably why I came to Oklahoma State.”
No. 14 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Kansas
* When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
* Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
* TV: ESPN2 (Cox 28/HD 721; U-Verse 606/HD 1606; Dish 144; DirecTV 209)
* Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
Three things to know
* Among the stakes: the Big 12 championship chase and the Player of the Year race, between OSU's Marcus Smart and KU's Ben McLemore.
* Travis Ford can reach 100 wins at OSU with a victory over the Jayhawks.
* Cowboys center Philip Jurick, who played just five minutes against OU due to matchup problems, will be back in the spotlight against KU 7-footer Jeff Withey.