By Dylan Konecny, U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Correspondent
Opposing players may second guess what sport they are about to play in when they tip off against the Saskatchewan Huskies. At an imposing 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Matt Forbes looks more like a member of the Knights Watch, ready for battle to fight off invading white walkers, or a warrior of Asgard with his dark beard.
The fifth-year forward and education major is a self-admitted beard enthusiast, although its growth has become more of a result of a busy schedule balancing basketball and a full course load.
“I love my beard,” said Forbes with a laugh. “I can’t really tell if I love my beard or I just hate shaving. I’m not really the type of guy that takes care of it, I just let it grow and every once in a while.
“I shave it with a hair clipper. No beard oil or trim for me or anything like that,” he added.
Before his mountain of a beard came to be, Forbes grew up and followed in the footsteps of his older brother Jonathan playing basketball as a kid.
“It was actually from my brother I got my start in basketball, it is because of him, and I sort of followed in his footsteps,” said Forbes. “There were two club teams in Regina fighting for him and then the bargain piece was that I’d get tossed on one of the younger teams, so that’s how I got my start”
Like Matt, Jonathon was a talented basketball player at a young age, and the younger Forbes saw his competitive nature and passion for athletics grow throughout his childhood alongside his older sibling playing as many sports together as they could.
In the time that’s passed since playing outside with his brother as a youngster, Forbes and his huskies have torn up the competition in the Canada West conference, bringing the University of Saskatchewan to a 12-6 record and a No. 9 ranking nationally. Wins and losses aren’t all that matters and Forbes is very mindful of his goals for the season.
He just wants to win to ensure that his team gets home-court advantage in the postseason in pursuit of winning the national tournament.
As you get older you get more used to the pressure, you still get nerves, but as soon as the ball goes up you start playing and settle in.
Matt Forbes - Saskatchewan Huskies
“As you get older you get more used to the pressure, you still get nerves, but as soon as the ball goes up you start playing and settle in,” said Forbes, who has been named the U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Month for January, on how he deals with the pressure.
Last month, the Regina Beach, Sask., native recorded back-to-back double-doubles as the Huskies swept Mount Royal late in January. He scored a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds – including five offensive – in an 82-62 win, before posting a 20-point, 12-board performance in a narrow 90-87 victory the day after. Over the course of the month, he averaged 19.9 points and 8.4 rebounds, as the Huskies went 6-2.
“Matt’s been really bringing it,” Huskies head coach Barry Ralyk told the Calgary Herald, after last weekend’s set against the Alberta Golden Bears. “He’s probably playing as well as he has throughout his career. Since Christmas, he’s really turned things on. I hope he can keep it going.”
Forbes has a passion for helping people and that was a large part of why he chose to study education in school. Outside of his academics, he’s just another guy who likes to be social and relax with his teammates.
“I like to play cards a lot,” said Forbes. “Cribs is my game of choice, I think I’ve taught like six or eight guys since no one knew (how to play). Every time I teach someone, they end up beating me because I always help them - I guess I kind of beat myself.”
The chemistry that the team has been built through this season has come through tradition and team bonding at family barbeques after games and even the team’s annual training trip. Around Christmas-time, the Huskies ditch the Canadian winter for sandy beaches in Palm Springs, a place where very few people have heard of their home province.
“Those trips are great – we don’t have homework, there’s no classes,” he said. “We just practice hard and hang out as a team in the sun, which is nice to get away from the minus-40 (degrees).”
“It’s always funny to tell people down there where you’re from because they have no idea where Saskatchewan is.”