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The Daily Tar Heel

Basketball Tab: Quiet Forte Makes Noise on Court

His game is another story.

It maintains the smoothness of Forte's personality but is loud and bold at the same time, complete with long-range bombs, pull-up jumpers and drives to the basket. It's in your face whether you like it - as in the case of his teammates - or not - as in the case of opponents.

Forte becomes another person on the court. If he beats a defender in practice, that guy might hear about it. After practice, the media probably won't.

"I'm not going to sit here and brag to you guys about how good I am," Forte said, talking to a group of writers. "But when we're in pickup games in certain situations, I may talk a little trash or whatever. But that's between us because I feel comfortable with those guys. I don't know if I'd do it against another opponent because that's not how I am."

Forte seemed plenty comfortable around the opposition last year, his freshman season. That much was evident from the opening tip. He launched - and made - a 25-foot 3-pointer during the first five seconds of North Carolina's season. That shot set the tone for his season.

Forte led UNC in scoring at 16.7 points per game, a school record for a freshman.

And Forte, the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year, is supposed to be even better this year. He has put on seven pounds of muscle to bulk up his 6-foot-4 frame to 192 pounds. He has also improved his ball handling to the point where he could see some minutes at point guard.

Forte was second on the team in assists last year with 94. He is especially effective with the ball on the pick-and-roll, which allows him to read his defender and then react. If the defense sags, he hoists his effortless jumper. If the defense comes at him, he whips the ball into the post or kicks it out to the wing.

"He can create situations," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "He knows how to pass, and he knows where to deliver the basketball. And he's a scorer. He can put the ball in the hole."

The scoring part is crucial. No matter how good of a passer Forte becomes, UNC needs him to keep putting up points to keep pressure off the team's low-post players. That's why not that all of his teammates are excited about the prospect of him playing the point.

"I feel he can play point guard if we need him to," center Brendan Haywood said. "But at the same time, if you have such a good scorer, why do you want to limit his shots? Your point guard can't be the guy who shoots the most shots."

Forte said it doesn't matter to him where he plays, just as long as he's on the court. But how much longer will the Smith Center be his court?

The current trend in college basketball is for players who excel in the open floor to leave school early and finish their development in the NBA. Forte has that kind of talent.

This summer, he was able to see first-hand where he stands in relation to the world's best. Forte was part of the U.S. Men's Select Team that helped prepare the 2000 Dream Team for the Olympics.

Forte started in an exhibition game against the NBA stars, going scoreless in 18 minutes with three rebounds.

It wasn't his best game by any means, but it did nothing to curb speculation that he might leave school if he has a huge sophomore season.

Forte, not surprisingly, shrugs off all the talk about his pro career. He still has business to take care of in Chapel Hill.

"I don't know what you really even say to people or whatever," Forte said. "I guess your actions speak louder than words, and my actions have kind of put me in this position.

"I'm just going out and trying to have a good college year and focusing on the team and us getting back to the Final Four and going all the way."

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