Scouting Report: Finding Jack Forrest's Place Among the Lions

(Photo: Courtesy of Philly.com, Graphic: Chase Manze)

(Photo: Courtesy of Philly.com, Graphic: Chase Manze)

The basketball season is over, and there are more than enough exams still to be written, but it’s never too early to start looking at prospects for next year.

For the men’s basketball team, the first of those prospects is Jack Forrest, who committed to Columbia this past September as part of the class of 2023. ESPN lists Forrest, a shooting guard from Lower Merion, at 6’4 and 175 lbs.  

Has there ever been a shooting guard from Lower Merion who went on to do great things? It rings a bell. Coby something? Brian?

Jack Forrest is, of course, nowhere near Lower Merion legend Kobe Bryant, but he can still be a good player for Columbia. With senior Quinton Adlesh graduating and heading to USC as a grad transfer, there’s a spot open at shooting guard.

Based on highlight videos, mixtapes, and sketchy gamefilm, Forrest is a good player. Such “film” is hardly the best method of prospect scouting, but Columbia no doubt has more video on Forrest and can reasonably judge for itself whether or not he will be a good addition to the team. Still, highlight videos can clue viewers into several major strengths and offer a little insight into a player’s weaknesses.

The first thing that stands out about Forrest is his shooting, which helped Lower Merion to a 28-6 record, ranked 23rd in Pennsylvania, in his senior season. The guard has a very clean shooting stroke and a tight, quick release that should translate very well to the college game. Players in the Ivy League are on average taller and faster than Forrest’s high school opponents, so his tight, efficient form will be useful against elevated competition.

“Jack is one of the best technical shooters I have ever seen,” Lower Merion head coach Gregg Downer told PAPrepLive.com.

Like most right-handed players, Forrest is more comfortable driving right and pulling up when going left. He has a solid crossover, but I wouldn’t expect wizardry off the dribble too often, especially against better defenders. As far as Columbia’s offense goes, he probably won’t be asked to do much driving in his first year, as Mike Smith and Gabe Stefanini will remain the team’s primary ball handlers. But how can he help fill the shooting guard hole left by Adlesh’s departure?

Forrest’s catch-and-shoot prowess will be the most important factor in determining his minutes. Columbia’s offense heavily integrated screens and curls for Adlesh, a high-volume shooter, and as last year’s early high-post offense showed, coach Jim Engles is unlikely to deviate far from his offensive scheme, preferring his personnel to fit in. Furthermore, with two primary ball handlers controlling the floor, the drive-and-kick game will need to be potent, and knockdown shooters on the kick end are a must-have.

Smith and Stefanini are expected to start as guards. Rising senior Jake Killingsworth probably has the inside track at the other guard starting spot, with Maka Ellis—probably Forrest’s primary competition—also likely to see an increase in minutes. Ellis’ minutes drastically increased toward the end of this past season, but I think his value lies more in his dribble and pull-game than in his shooting. Randy Brumant, another strong player last year, is still working to add range that might limit the minutes of a shoot-first first-year like Forrest.

One thing the entry-level highlights rarely showed was defensive play Therein lies the great unknown. If Forrest is a minus defender, watch-out. Columbia has enough guards that it need not feature a good-shoot, no-defense first-year. But defense is a team game and while an adjustment period—to the college game and to college life in general—is to be expected, a focused commitment to defense should make sure Forrest isn’t a liability.

At the end of the day, Forrest will fit in. His shooting translates well and teams always find minutes for shooters. He hasn’t even moved in to Carman yet; no point in losing sight of the Forrest for the trees.

SportsJosiah Cohen