Wooden Cup Profile: Craig Forth

Dec. 23, 2004

This is one in a series of profiles on finalists for the John Wooden Cup presented by Athletes for a Better World. The inaugural award will be presented to two distinguished athletes - one collegiate and one professional - that best display character, teamwork and citizenship as determined by the ABW John Wooden Cup Committee. Twelve athletes in both the collegiate and professional categories reached the semifinal round and the trophy will be presented in Los Angeles on Jan. 10. ABW was founded in 1998 on the principles of hard work, fair play, commitment to team, sportsmanship and community service.


By Mallory Carra

Special to CollegeSports.com


School plays a big role in the life of Syracuse center Craig Forth. As a scholar-athlete and an aspiring teacher, Forth spends just as much time in the classroom as he does on the court.


Throughout his four years with the Orange, he has spoken to kids at Syracuse-area schools, student-taught at two elementary schools, assisted with nine basketball camps and has consistently landed on the honor roll.


Forth's accomplishments at Syracuse have led him to become one of 12 semifinalists for the Wooden Cup, an honor he was happy to receive.


"I was shocked," he said. "I'm pretty excited, because the award recognizes all the important stuff. It's really prestigious and a lot of people should strive for it."


Forth, who is majoring in inclusive education, balanced basketball with student-teaching a third grade class at Long Branch Elementary School, followed by a sixth grade class at Lincoln Middle School.


"(At) every age level the kids are kind of quirky," he said. "It's a great experience everywhere. It's so easy to get attached to the kids."


He decided to pursue a teaching degree after seeing his autistic younger brother Jeremy, now 12, struggle with sub-par teachers while growing up in East Greenbush, N.Y., two hours from Syracuse.


"Every student has the ability to learn, but a lot of them aren't getting the proper support and care that they need," he said. "I remember when my Mom used to get upset and frustrated every day because my little brother wasn't getting what he needed. I want to be that teacher who gives the kids what they need."


Forth, who won a national championship with the Orange in 2003, said his celebrity-status as the Orange's veteran center has helped gain respect among the kids he teaches.


"They're always cheering me on when I get back [from a game]," Forth said. "They catch on to things real quick and they ask about all the players and a million different things. When I first started at the schools, all the kids were like `Oh my god, Craig Forth is here,' but then it's just Mr. Forth."


He has also been a guest speaker at over 35 local schools in Syracuse addressing topics of responsibility and literacy. In October, Forth participated in the two-month Verizon Superpages Reads program, promoting literacy to area fourth-grade students. The program was sponsored by Verizon and Syracuse Athletics.


"The elementary [school] kids are a blast," he said. "They see this 7-foot guy from Syracuse and walking in with my jersey just solidifies it for them. They jump all over it."


Forth has been further combining teaching and basketball by assisting with the nine basketball camps throughout his college career. Last summer, he helped at a basketball camp operated by Jim Obermayer, Forth's high school basketball coach at Columbia High School in East Greenbush.


"We help them with life skills, teaching them to work hard everyday and how to be a team player," he said. "They learn that you have to devote yourself to basketball and work hard to reach the Syracuse level. The nice thing is you get to see the kids improve over time and develop good skills -- like you can see in some of the kids that they have skills in eighth grade that they didn't have in fourth grade."


Forth has also been solid in his class work, landing on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll for five consecutive semesters. It is an honor given to Syracuse student-athletes with grade point average of 3.0 or better. He has also been awarded the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company "Good Chemistry," award, a $10,000 academic scholarship that recognizes outstanding academic and athletic accomplishments.


"A lot of the professors I've had, they see `Craig Forth, the basketball player,' and I've been trying to break that in the classroom for the past four years," he said. "They think I'm all about basketball. Athletes have a tendency to skip school and the professors frown upon that. When I walk in, they wonder if I'm like that and they find out I'm one of the more devoted students."


When Forth graduates in May, he is considering pursuing a career in the NBA before putting his degree to use.


"I'm going to take advantage of playing for Syracuse," he said. "I want to do a lot of things, but basketball first. Some time in my life I do want to teach. It all depends on how I do this year. I think I'm taking the right steps along the way to having a solid year. I have two or three career opportunities to choose from, if I want."



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