By Nick Giannandrea
Tristan Forsyth arrived in America a little more than a year ago, excited about pursuing his dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
But not long after the 6-foot-10, 235-pound forward/center from Melbourne, Australia, settled in at a small community college in Iowa last fall,
Forsyth received staggering news.
His mother, Monique De Zwart Forsyth, had been diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. Her condition is incurable.
"I was obviously in shock and wanting to go back home," Forsyth said. "But she said 'I want you to be the best you can be, and I don't want to
be the reason for you to not reach your goals.'"
So Forsyth remained in the United States, left chilly Iowa behind after his freshman season for sunny California and landed at College of the
Sequoias, where he is emerging as an offensive catalyst for 18th-year Giants men's basketball coach Rusty Smith.
After being held scoreless while coming off the bench during state preseason No. 10-ranked COS' season-opening 71-65 loss to No. 9 Mt. San Jacinto
on Nov. 3, Forsyth moved into the starting lineup and posted 15 points and nine rebounds during a 58-56 in over Cuesta on Nov. 4, and had 21 points, 12 rebounds and two assists during a 79-73 defeat of Bakersfield on Nov. 9. Forsyth has made 57.1 percent of
his shots (12 of 21), while making 6 of 8 3-point attempts during the Giants' past two games.
"He's started to play the way we expect him to every game," Smith said. "He's going to be a force for us because he can score inside and out.
He can shoot on the perimeter, and at 6-10, he can score around the basket. And we're going to utilize that versatility to the fullest extent of the law."
Forsyth's first destination after leaving Australia was Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, where he averaged 11.7 points and 5.6
rebounds while shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point range and earning All-Region honors last season.
But living in landlocked and winter snow-packed Iowa Falls, population 5,058, didn't suit Forsyth, who hails from sunny Melbourne, a coastal city
of roughly 5 million people in Australia.
So Forsyth decided to head west, and he asked his Australian AAU coach and mentor Tim Rapp, a former American college assistant, to help him find
a new home. Rapp recommended a handful of California Community Colleges for Forsyth to explore which included COS on the list. Forsyth called COS and spoke to Coach Smith when they discovered they both had a common friend in Rapp.
Smith, who became friends with Rapp when he was an assistant at Cal State Northridge and Rapp was a coach at Cal Poly Pomona in the late 1980s,
knew the Giants could use Forsyth.
Forsyth, who is shooting 44 percent from the field overall, has helped fuel a 2-1 start for COS, which returns to action this weekend during the
Fresno City College Tournament. The Giants
are scheduled to face state No. 1 City College of San Francisco at 7 p.m. Friday and Sierra at 3 p.m. Saturday.
"He's been a great teammate, not a selfish guy at all," Smith said. "He's not trying to do stuff he can't do. He's not trying to dominate. He
just fits in as one of the guys. He's doing great."
Forsyth said he set out for America because he wanted to sharpen his skills on the court against tougher competition while working toward a college
degree in graphic design.
"Last year was a bit of a wake-up call for me to realize how much effort and hard work I have to put into my game to get to the next level and
be where I want to be," Forsyth said. "The main thing is the physicality. It's not as physical (in Australia) and they don't get up and down the court as quick as the do here. At first, it was hard to get used to."
Forsyth has spent a great deal of time in the weight room to improve his physicality, and a lot of time on the track to increase his speed and
ability to keep up with the pace of the American game.
That hard work paid off Nov. 14 when Forsyth signed a national letter of intent to play next season at Cal Baptist, a four-year university in
Riverside that is in the first of a four-year process of transitioning from NCAA Division II to D-I status. The Lancers have joined the Western Athletic Conference.
It will be the next step in a journey Forsyth hopes will lead him to the professional ranks. And it's a quest Forsyth's mother won't let him give
up on despite her terminal diagnosis, and her son's desire to be by her side.
"It has been hard from the standpoint of being away from my mom and knowing her condition," Forsyth said. "But it make me really proud to call
myself a Forsyth. She motivates me to do great things in my life and become the man she always wanted me to be."