Forrest recovering from off-season surgery, looking ahead to senior year
Everyone knew Trent Forrest was struggling with a toe injury during a long stretch of Florida State's 2018-'19 men's basketball season.
Not many knew just how severe it was, or how long he had to endure the pain.
Speaking with reporters for the first time since the season ended, Forrest explained on Wednesday that he injured the toe against Villanova in the sixth game of the season. That was on Nov. 25. He played the final four months with torn cartilage in his toe.
It was excruciating at times. But he played. Always.
On March 28, in the Seminoles' Sweet 16 game against No. 1 seed Gonzaga, a still-hobbled Forrest scored 20 points and almost single-handedly kept FSU in the game.
Two weeks later, he underwent surgery.
Right now, as the calendar turns to May, Forrest wears a walking boot as he continues to recover from the operation. It was a procedure that, quite frankly, he thought about undergoing even while Florida State was in the midst of a 29-win season.
"Halfway through the season, I was ready to get surgery honestly," Forrest said. "The coaches and Coach (Leonard Hamilton) didn't want me to get surgery during the season. But with the pain, I was already kind of mentally ready to get surgery. So I would say that's just kind of where I was. But it's definitely a big relief to have it over and finished with."
Forrest wasn't looking that forward to the surgery, of course. Otherwise he wouldn't have played so well in the Sweet 16 against Gonzaga. It was arguably his best game of the season, and he had the Seminoles within striking distance with plenty of time left on the clock.
"Yeah, at the same time you still want to play, of course," Forrest said. "I was mentally ready for the surgery, but at the same time I wanted to keep playing as far as I could."
Forrest said he still laments how the season played out. Despite the school-record 29 wins and the second straight Sweet 16 appearance, he admits he'll always wonder what could have been.
What if he was completely healthy?
What if Phil Cofer was in California with the team?
What if David Nichols was healthy?
What if Florida State had the full sum of its parts in the NCAA Tournament -- just how far could the Seminoles have gone? After all, they wound up being the last team to beat the eventual national champion Virginia Cavaliers, which they did in the ACC Tournament.
"Even if we just had one of the two -- Phil or David -- I feel like our ending would have been very different," Forrest said. "You think about that all time. But at the end of the day, you just have to play the cards you're dealt."
Forrest's cards, of course, weren't ideal. He was never able to be himself after the fifth game of the season.
He still found ways to lead his team. He still had many games where he was extremely effective. He just wasn't Trent Forrest.
"It was frustrating," he said. "I've kind of never been like this where I had to figure out how I'm going to get around somebody. Because I'm just so used to doing it when I kind of wanted to. And then when you have an injury like that, teams know that, of course. So they're going to try to pressure you more, and make you use your weak foot.
"So it was very frustrating."
By August, Forrest expects to be fully healthy. He knows what will be expected of him in the 2019-'20 season. He'll be a senior and the most experienced player on the team. By far. And, if healthy, should be one of the best players in the conference.
That will be a big help to a team that will have so many new faces.
"I'm ready to rock and roll," Forrest said. "I've thought about (next year) a lot. I'm ready to take the (next) step. … I may not be the oldest in age, but I'll be the oldest on the court. So I definitely think those guys are going to look to me for a lot."
Especially since most of the teammates he's been around for so many years -- Cofer, Mfiondu Kabengele, Christ Koumadje, Terance Mann and P.J. Savoy -- are all gone.
"It's very weird," Forrest said. "I think about it all the time. … I came in with a class of six, and now I'm the only one that's left. So I mean I think about it all the time.
"We have pickup games, and it looks so different now without those guys being here. It's definitely something we have to get used to."