ATHENS -- Cameron Forte was on his third college team, seeking his fourth, when his college coach approached him last spring.
“Georgia’s going to call, and they’re going to offer you, and they want you to come take a visit,” Forte recalled his coach telling him.
Georgia? Forte grew up in Arizona and had never lived east of Texas.
“In my head I was like, ‘No, I don’t really wanna go there,’ ” he said. “Because I really knew nothing about the program. I knew they had good players here who had come out, but I felt like it was too far away from home.”
Georgia’s interest might also have seemed suspect, given Forte’s vagabond college experience and not being a star name. But Forte offered things the Bulldogs have sorely lacked the past two years, so they put on the press, and Forte signed on with the team.
It’s a match that might work well for both sides.
Georgia (1-0) plays Georgia Tech on Friday in an early test of whether the Bulldogs can survive without Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The final player Georgia signed before this season was Forte, and it was with an eye on getting immediate help.
Forte, a 6-foot-7 forward, has a knack for scoring points in the paint and getting rebounds. An inability to do either of those two things -- especially the inside scoring -- is a big reason Georgia has had two straight losing seasons.
“Cam has a great instinct to score the ball,” head coach Mark Fox said. “He really has provided something that we’ve needed, a guy that can make plays in the paint.”
The first thing Nemanja Djurisic, a Georgia junior forward, noticed about Forte was “he just hunts the basket.”
“He’s a natural scorer,” Djurisic said. “He has great hands, great vision. He’s just a natural.”
Forte showed that in Georgia’s 72-52 win over Wofford last week. He had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, all in the paint, in just 16 minutes. If he continues to be that productive, his minutes will increase.
The past few years have been tumultuous for Forte, a native of Tempe, Ariz. After averaging 36 points and 12.7 rebounds per game in high school, he signed with Texas Tech and then-head coach Billy Gillispie.
But Forte never played a game for Gillispie and the Red Raiders, deciding to transfer in December.
“I just didn’t fit in with the program and Coach Gillispie’s style of play, so we just decided to go our separate ways,” Forte said.
A short time later, Gillispie was ousted after a revolt of the remaining players.
Forte transferred to Northern Arizona, a low-major school, but never played a game there either. He decided to go to a junior college so he could play right away, landing at Howard Community College in Texas. After averaging 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, Georgia found him, making Athens his fourth home in two years.
“It was an experience. And it’s just something to grow on as a player,” Forte said. “I’m a little bit older than the people in my class, so I think I can bring that to the table and just kind of lead by example.”
The Bulldogs are content for him to lead by doing all those things near the hoop that they sorely need.
“I really don’t know. I just have a good feel around the rim,” Forte said. “I know where it’s going to come off the rim so I know to get to the spot. I don’t really try to do it, it’s just something that’s just built in me.”