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Niyo: Bryn Forbes finally feeling at home for MSU

John Niyo
The Detroit News

East Lansing — He can deal with the screaming.

Really, it's almost expected when you're on the kind of "roller coaster" ride Bryn Forbes has taken from Lansing to Cleveland and back the last couple years. And from a starring role with one team to the starting block with another.

But when Forbes, a junior transfer for Michigan State, sighs and says, "Everything in my life has changed," he means it for the better.

Fewer minutes on the court, maybe. But more time with his 18-month-old son, Carter. More headaches as he tried to learn a new system and a new coaching staff. But less stress as he's closer to his home and his family, including an older sister who has been fighting a debilitating illness for the better part of a decade.

A year ago, Forbes, a 21-year-old Lansing native and former high school teammate of Michigan State co-captain Denzel Valentine, would see his son when his mother would bring him for a visit once or twice a month. Now he gets to drop Carter off at daycare in the morning before he heads to class.

His eldest sibling, Erin Warmels, has been battling Lyme disease for years. Surgeries, hospital stays, the works. But "she's doing much better now," he says, and so is Forbes after enduring what he calls "one of the most difficult years of my life."

So this? Getting yelled at every day in practice? Getting benched and demoted in the middle of the season?

"I'd say it's more of a relief than anything," Forbes shrugged.

Rocket ride

Nothing against Cleveland State, where he spent his first two seasons, earning freshman of the year honors in the Horizon League and then leading the Vikings in scoring a year ago at 15.6 points.

"I love that program," said Forbes, whose hardship waiver was granted by the NCAA last summer, allowing him to play immediately this season. "But this is where I wanted to be."

And this is the feeling he always imagined, playing a key role as Michigan State did what it always seems to do this time of year, knocking off a team like No. 2 seed Virginia to advance to this week's Sweet 16 in Syracuse, New York

"That might've been my best experience in basketball so far," said Forbes, who played 27 minutes off the bench and provided a big lift against Virginia — for the third consecutive game — with Michigan State's starting backcourt in foul trouble.

Virginia's three guards shot a combined 7-for-29 and finished with more turnovers (five) than assists (three). And while that was certainly a team effort, with an 11th-hour game plan getting most of the credit, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo heaped praise on Forbes afterward. And again Tuesday, as he talked about the shooting guard's suddenly-steep learning curve.

"The other night, I didn't think he took a step, I don't think he even took a leap," Izzo said of Forbes' defense. "I think he rocket‑shipped off the ground compared to where he was, because … as I told (Michigan State football coach Mark) Dantonio, he was guarding linebackers."

A few months ago, the 6-foot-3, 175-pounder couldn't really guard anybody, at least not the way Izzo saw it. And not surprisingly, his all-around game was suffering.

"I think that was part of the problem early," Izzo said. "He knew coming here it was going to be more physical than where he was. He also knew he was going to have to defend better."

Forbes showed flashes occasionally, particularly after he'd gotten past the broken bone in his hand that had bothered him throughout the season's first month. There was that 18-point night at Notre Dame, where he didn't miss a shot. A solid outing in the overtime victory over Michigan in early February. Another hot shooting night in a loss at Wisconsin.

Getting results

But while he remained a 43-percent shooter from 3-point range, the inconsistent efforts left everyone wanting — and probably wondering.

"It's like he's a junior in year, but he's a freshman in our system, dealing with Coach (Izzo) and the pressure and everything," Valentine said. "I kind of felt bad for him at times."

Like that first day of practice last fall, when he struggled with a rebounding drill and quickly discovered what most of his teammates already knew about Izzo.

"His intensity," Forbes laughed, "is unmatched."

Unending, too, he discovered, as Izzo continually hounded him about his defense and rebounding — program prerequisites at Michigan State and a positional necessity for a shooting guard at this level.

"I don't know what buttons you push all the time," said Izzo, who lost a pair of defensive stoppers in guards Gary Harris and Keith Appling from last year's team. "But I know this: I relentlessly stayed after him about it, and so did some of our players. I told you early on that he's a kid that wants to please — he really does. … But, boy, he's made some giant strides. I'm really, really proud of what he's done. "

Forbes is, too, as you might expect, and it's starting to show, in his confident play and in his coach's response.

"He's making you be the best you can be," Forbes said of Izzo. "You don't have a choice."

Well, he did, actually. But after "some difficult times," it sure feels like he made the right one in coming home.

john.niyo@detroitnews.com

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