Folsom’s McKenzie Forbes talks about ‘surreal’ opportunities ahead
She can juggle three oranges and maintain full giddy chatter at the same time.
She soaks in dance videos and will shimmy and shake when no one is watching. But what McKenzie Forbes does especially well in motion is handle a basketball.
The Folsom High School senior guard learned to spin a ball on her finger when she was 4, a trick gleaned from her Globetrotters-touring father, Sterling Forbes.
Forbes can dribble between her legs, behind her back and through a maze of human traffic like a 6-foot freight train barreling down the tracks. She does so in the flow of the game, showing off without being a hot dog.
She is reason enough to watch. The girls play below the rim, but good teams play the right way, too, with screens and extra passes. Forbes adds flavor to her finesse and fundamentals.
She is as exciting of a player as the region has seen in the past three decades. In an all-time regional lineup, Forbes would be the lead guard, joining Tesia Green (Grant guard, 1989), Danielle Viglione (Del Campo forward, 1993), Sara James (Oak Ridge wing, 2010) and Vicki Baugh (Sacramento center, 2007). Game on.
The Cal-bound Forbes will have to be at her best to keep the Bulldogs' season alive. Folsom (27-4) hosts Salesian of Richmond (26-5) in a CIF Northern California Open Division contest on Friday. A victory likely means a date at national No. 1 Mitty of San Jose in a semifinal.
"We're trying to grow the women's game, and players like Kenzie make that possible," Folsom coach Lynn Wolking said. "She makes it so fun. It doesn't matter if you like watching the girls play ball, or the guys, people want to be entertained. And she entertains. She's crazy good."
Cici Robinson agrees. A star player at El Camino in the 1990s when she went by her maiden name, Cici Downing, Robinson works for the CIF after a stint as an athletic director at Folsom.
"She's got it all, fundamentals to flair, and she adds to the crowd appreciation because she has something for every basketball fan," Robinson said. "When you're McKenzie Forbes, five-star recruit, McDonald's All-American, you can go your own way, but she's so grounded."
Forbes learned humility from her father, a showman in his global travels with the Globetrotters, but also one who stressed team ball during hundreds of clinics. He is an assistant coach to Wolking.
"Kenzie plays the right way, and she has fun with it," Sterling said. "And yeah, it's great to watch."
Sterling went by "Smooth" in his day to match his effortless game. His daughter has been called several things.
"One of them, by another coach, was 'The Truth,' as in, 'You can't handle the truth!' " Sterling said. "Loved that."
Forbes likes "Agent Zero," which matches her jersey number. But her value greatly exceeds any number. Folsom was either putrid or average before Forbes arrived, including going 5-22 in 2013. Forbes elevated the program in 2014-15 as a freshman with her personality and talent. The Bulldogs went 17-11, their best showing since 2007. Forbes is averaging 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals.
Forbes takes her role seriously. She and brother Mason, a star on the boys team, are inseparable. They can generally be found in four places: school, the gym, another gym, or crashed out at home.
Forbes will play in several All-Star games following this season. She is just the third area player to compete in the McDonald's All-American showcase.
"I care about this game and this program and for coach Wolking, and he deserves a team that cares as much as he does," Forbes said. "Besides the wins and losses here, how much the culture has changed here is something I take pride in. Basketball means something here now."
Forbes on her game said, "I enjoy having fun with it. A lot of people say I play like my dad. And as girls, we definitely deserve to be watched by fans. We've earned that. Each one of us as players has a responsibility to grow the game, not just for ourselves, but for the girls game in general. Whether it's a teacher working the door at the gym, or a community member, or students, we want to put on a good show and good product and say, 'Hey, girls basketball is exciting. It's fun, even without the dunks.' "
Forbes is also a good sport. She seeks out leaders on teams Folsom has beaten in the playoffs, knowing how it feels to taste defeat. This includes Kelsey Forrester of Davis, who has done her part to grow the game with two dramatic game-winning 3-pointers at home games that resulted in fans flooding the floor.
"It’s hard not to appreciate Kenzie's game," Forrester said. "Whenever you play her, she brings out the best in you. She’s also one of the nicest competitors I have played. The respect she has for her teammates, coaches and people around her is something that I really look up to. She leads her team in a way I haven’t seen before, and obviously it’s been very successful."