The last time Jeffery Forbes Jr. took the court with the Decatur High School boys basketball team, he was playing against the Gators as a district-rival Eagle. Now, the 2009 Federal Way High School graduate will join them as their coach.
Forbes replaces former Gator coach David Choi, who stepped down before the season started. Forbes said he had already been hired at Decatur High School to teach marketing when the position became available.
Initially, he said he thought he was going to take a year off from coaching, after serving as an assistant coach at Puyallup High School last year.
“The opportunity came open as a blessing in disguise by God,” Forbes said.
The first-year teacher earned his stripes on the basketball court after helping the FWHS Eagles win the state championship in 2009. He went on to have considerable success at Eastern Washington University, where the shooting guard started all four years and still has records bearing his name, including setting a single season record for free-throw percentage in 2011-12 after going 54-of-60 at the charity stripe. At Eastern, he played in 121 games and averaged 8.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Forbes knows he has a new set of challenges as a first-year head coach, however, including putting together and building a team and teaching his players his philosophy on the court.
His philosophy, he said, is straight forward, centering around working hard — playing together and winning together — and becoming a family of brothers.
“Most of all, just playing hard: Play hard with your brothers, and play hard for your brothers,” Forbes said.
With just a week of try-outs behind them, Forbes said he likes what he sees, thus far.
“They’re playing hard, and I see some camaraderie with the boys,” he said.
Forbes knows adjusting to a new philosophy under a new head coach is hard for some of the returning players, having had to do that at Eastern, and he said his first job will be to teach them that, as a coach, he is here for them.
“After years of playing, I know respect comes from the bottom to the top,” he said.
So far, he thinks the boys have been adjusting well to him and his style.
“I think they’re responding to me real well,” he said. “They act like they believe in me, but it’s a process. … It’s tough not knowing your coach and who they are and their beliefs.”
He said he will be making sure everybody is involved and playing for the same goal, and the rest will come. Right now, the team is still in its building stages, Forbes said.
“Everybody has their own goals, and everybody has team goals, and I think everybody has their own goals more than team goals right now,” he said.
That will change, however, as the Gators continue to adjust to his philosophy of working hard, respect, becoming family, and being good young men on and off the court. He will also instill a strong focus on defense and taking care of the ball on the court.
“Right now, we’re just sorting it all out,” Forbes said. “It’ll come.”
The Gators’ first game of the season is approaching fast: a preseason game against Lakewood at home Dec. 27.