Tummala and Forte Lead Salt Lake & Howard In JUCO Shootout
After posting two successful high school basketball careers in the state of Arizona and graduating from two different local high schools in 2011, Arizona products Sai Tummala and Cameron Forte would meet against one another in this year's Fiesta Bowl Junior College Shootout at Mesa Community College on Friday afternoon. This time they would not be representing Brophy Prep and McClintock High School, but rather #2 nationally ranked Howard JC (TX) and Salt Lake City Junior College (UT).
Forte and Tummala are two Arizona high school products with very different makeups, but with very similar paths.
6-foot-7 sophomore forward Cameron Forte, an ultra, high-scoring athletic talent from McClintock High School, where he won a state championship as a junior and broke many state scoring records as a senior - averaging 44 points per/game and leading the nation in scoring. After a big spring and summer performance on the club circuit after remaining unsigned after his senior season, Forte would sign a division-I scholarship with Texas Tech University and former head coach Billy Gillespi. After spending one season at Texas Tech and seeing very little playing time, Forte took his talents to the junior college ranks this season as a sophomore, after he learned that he would have to sit out his sophomore season at Northern Arizona while waiting to be cleared by the NCAA to play.
"I would rather play this year than sit out and wait," Forte advised Arizona Preps in the fall.
Since taking his path through the juco ranks, Forte has developed a lot as a young man. Still playing for his former McClintock HS head coach and mentor Jase Coburn, now an assistant coach at Howard JC (TX), Forte has learned to now play some defense, while becoming a much better teammate to a loaded junior college team that went into this weekend's juco event undefeated and looking to reach a national #1 ranking.
Forte is currently averaging 24 points per/game for Howard, and ranks third in the nation in scoring. As a result, Forte is now hearing from numerous college programs for his next college stop. Such schools as Miami, Washington, Tennessee, Washington State, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, Seattle, Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston State and Florida International, among many other schools, have been in contact with Forte.
For Salt Lake City JC (UT) 6-foot-7 freshman forward Sai Tummala, the road has been very similar. A product of the state's top academic program, Brophy Prep, Tummala helped lead the Broncos to a 5A runner-up state championship finish in his senior season. After a subpar spring and summer performance, the once highly recruited Tummala saw his recruitment tail off a bit, until he landed a huge opportunity to become a walk-on for the University of Michigan - red-shirting for the Wolverines as a freshman, but developing a great deal physically and mentally at the Big-10 program.
After spending a year at the program, Tummala elected to transfer programs. After generating numerous scholarship offers for himself, Tummala instead decided to take his talents to the junior college ranks as well - landing at one of the nation's premier junior college programs at Salt Lake City JC in Utah.
Since joining Salt Lake's basketball program, Tummala has seen his college recruitment begin to soar as well - generating scholarship offers already from Drake, Penn and Brown. Tummala is also receiving strong interest from Rice, Dartmouth, Gonzaga, BYU, Utah, Canisius and Northern Arizona.
After both prospects have had very different situations in life and have come from very different cultural backgrounds, their paths would cross on Friday afternoon in the Mesa Junior College gymnasium, as both of their storied junior college basketball programs would meet up. Howard Junior College (TX) came into Friday's game undefeated at 11-0, while Salt Lake City JC (UT) had lost two games on the season to stiff competition - Western Nebraska JC and Indian Hills JC.
With Salt Lake City looking for the upset victory, and with both Forte and Tummala looking to lead their teams while back in their hometowns and in front of a number of friends and family, the game was set for a fierce match-up in the opening round of the Fiesta Bowl Junior College Shootout.
Cameron Forte would get off to a great start for Howard, scoring 8 of his team's first 18 points of the game - helping lead Howard to an early lead in the game. Tummala would start the game 0 for 4 from the field, and would get in early foul trouble - causing him to miss much of the game's first half.
Howard would take a 38-31 lead at the half, with Forte scoring a team-high 10 points, and Tummala finishing with 0 points in the half and 2 fouls.
In the game's second half, Salt Lake City would get things going and quickly close the gap. The score would read 38-37 in Howard's favor with 18:13 left to play in regulation.
Sai Tummala would then get it going for himself as well early in the second half, as he would ignite a run by his team - scoring 7 points, including a contested three-pointer from the top of the key to put Salt Lake ahead 42-40 with 16:05 left to play.
Forte would also get it going for himself, as he would score 14 points in the second half, but miss numerous shots around the basket late - opportunities he normally capitalizes on.
Salt Lake City would compete hard down the stretch and pull together as a team to take a 65-60 lead with 1 minute left to play. With just seconds left to play in the game and Salt Lake leading by 3-points, Howard would get three consecutive looks at three-pointers to tie the game. After missing each of their three shot attempts, Salt Lake City would earn the hard fought, upset victory over the nation's #2 team - a 66-63 win.
Forte and Tummala will continue playing in this weekend's event, as Forte will look to lead Howard JC back to their winning ways on Saturday, and Tummala will look to help lead his Salt Lake City group to the tournament championship.