Thompson’s Jayla Forbes becomes top prospect in third year playing basketball

Published 3:13 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – What if I told you one of the fastest rising basketball recruits in the state of Alabama didn’t even play the sport two years ago?

That’s exactly what Thompson center Jayla Forbes has accomplished.

Forbes used to only play volleyball until she picked up basketball in seventh grade as a second sport. Now, entering her freshman year, she has offers from major women’s college basketball programs including Alabama, Auburn, Miami, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

It’s a remarkable rise for Forbes, who now enters high school as the top ranked middle school player in the nation by Meta Middle School Elite. She is taking the offers in stride as she prepares for the upcoming season.

“I’m just kind of taking them as they come,” Forbes said. “I’m staying humble about it and just enjoying playing basketball.”

The 6-foot-7 Forbes played her first basketball season as a seventh grader playing for the Warriors, earning All-Area honors as well as an All-County Honorable Mention as an eighth grader.

She was a rebounding force for Thompson last year, but it wasn’t until this summer when she starred for GUAA All-Alabama in AAU that she started to realize that she had a chance to be very successful.

“It wasn’t just the offers,” Forbes said. “I started dominating the boards, crashing the boards in GUAA season. I led in rebounds this past season for our school and on the circuit and started putting up major boards, points and scoring. And I think that’s really when it started to take off for me.”

As she racked up performances and put in work with her trainers, scouts started to pay attention, and her offers shortly followed. In addition to her SEC and ACC offers, Forbes has received offers to play at Alabama A&M and San Jose State.

Once she started garnering attention from big-name schools, others quickly put their name in.

“I think it was when I got these back-to-back offers, like within 48 hours, I had like two, three offers, it was like, ‘yeah, it’s starting to get pretty big,’” Forbes said.

One of the reasons Forbes believes she was able to adapt to basketball so quickly is because of the skills she developed in volleyball. The verticality that she has on the volleyball floor has transitioned over to the basketball court, even though she had to adjust to the physicality of life in the paint.

“I really think some of my volleyball skills have helped me rebound and block shots and be able to move side to side across the paint,” Forbes said. “And, you can’t really contact people in volleyball, like you can’t touch them. So, playing basketball and being able to get physical and actually make contact was very different, and I’ve come to love it.”

Now that her whirlwind summer on the AAU circuit is wrapping up, the focus now turns to her upcoming freshman season with Thompson. She is looking forward to working both on the court and in the weight room, where the Warriors have a new strength and conditioning coach for girls basketball in Airionia Wilkerson.

“We just got a new strength and conditioning coach, so I’m really excited about that, and I’m excited to get in the gym with Coach Air and be with my teammates and really start working,” Forbes said.

Forbes will also be learning under a new coaching staff led by head coach Art Bogan, and she is looking forward to seeing what she and the team can do now that he is at the helm.

She has high expectations for herself in a Thompson uniform, and her goal now is to be one of the best to ever do it for the Warriors as she continues her path to becoming a college basketball player.

“I’d like to someday crack that Thompson rebounding record,” Forbes said. “I think that’s a goal I’ve set for myself. I want to be able to crack it by maybe sophomore, junior year.”

That’s a fast timeline, but as Forbes has shown so far, she’s used to working quickly.