BAY SPRINGS, Miss. (WDAM) - Basketball was a sport Jason Forte enjoyed playing as a kid in Bay Springs, and he was pretty good, once scoring 55 points in a high school game.
The hobby soon turned into a passion and eventually a means for living.
“Bay Springs has a population, census-wise, it’s about 1,700 people," Jason Forte said. "When I played in Australia, and I was flying over, when I was landing I was looking at the gold coast of Australia. I was like, ‘Wow, a little country boy from Bay Springs, Mississippi getting the opportunity to allow basketball to travel the world.’”
It took just a couple days in a high school gym for Forte to realize he had a gift.
When Forte left Jasper County the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg in 2002, he had no idea the places that gift would take him.
Ten years of professional basketball in cities, well, Forte didn’t know existed 13 years ago.
“My first year I went to Germany, and I played for one of the top teams there called Bamberg," Forte said. "The next year I went to Turkey and the team was called Banvit. That was the year I won the dunk contest. Romania – I played for a team called Moodish. A team in the Philippines, then I went to France for two years. I played for a team called Bourg-en-Bresse, a team called Saint-Vallier. Canada, went to Argentina, and I finished back in the Philippines in late 2016 with a team called Rain or Shine. Eight teams in 10 years.”
Forte isn’t the first talented athlete to come out of Bay Springs. Murriel Page played 11 years in the WNBA.
A school-record 2,400 points at Bay Springs caught the eyes of Boston College, but after his mother’s fight with breast cancer, Forte decided to stay close to home and join the Golden Eagles.
“The crazy thing about it is, being in this gym at 35 years old, my first basketball camp that I ever went to I was actually 7 and it was here," Forte said. "Basketball’s always been my love, I would compete with my brother on the dirt courts in Bay Springs. I worked super hard and my mom always instilled that if I couldn’t get my grades, I couldn’t do it.”
He didn’t have a banner career at USM, averaging just over five points per game in four years.
But his time with coaches James Green and Larry Eustachy shaped Jason into a professional.
He and Clarence Weatherspoon are the only two Golden Eagles to play a decade of pro basketball.
“Coach Green really gave that military mentality," Forte said. "We couldn’t have any type of facial hair or anything like that, he didn’t play that. We came up here, it was shirts tucked in and stuff like that. You had to be on the court at 4:50 and we would practice at 5:00 every morning. And I developed a real grit and a real toughness.”
After retiring from the pros two years ago, Forte received an invite to the Big 3 combine in April, hoping to join Prentiss grad Al Jefferson and other former NBA players in the new 3-on-3 basketball league.
The sport of basketball continues to bless Jason’s life 35 years in.
“And I tell a lot of the younger generation, a lot of the younger kids, I ask one question: What color is this basketball? And everybody’s answer is orange, it’s orange. And I would always say, nah the basketball was green to me,” Forte said. “And it was green because it allowed me to have a scholarship to play at a top Division I school and it also allowed me to play professional for 10 years. Your only competition is the person that you look at in the mirror. And I have a slogan, ‘Fortified – never denied.’ That’s just what I live off every day.”