St. Joseph’s guard Jack Forrest has had a unique basketball journey, moving from Kobe Bryant’s alma mater, Lower Merion High School, to the Ivy League, and now to Hawk Hill.

Forrest graduated from Lower Merion in 2019 and then played his freshman year at Columbia University. Thanks to his time at Lower Merion, Forrest had the opportunity to meet Bryant twice.

“We sat down with [Bryant] for about an hour and a half and really just talked about life and all the life lessons he learned through his long NBA career,” Forrest said. “And that had a profound impact on me.”

This advice went beyond the slogan “Mamba Mentality,” often associated with Bryant.

[”Bryant’s] point was, if you can build a routine and stay disciplined, you’ll just have incremental improvement, which will yield good results,” Forrest said.

This is something that Lower Merion basketball coach Gregg Downer helped Forrest implement while in his basketball program.

“[Forrest] worked hard and he worked smart,” Downer said. “He was just one of those players from grades nine through 12 that progressively got better every year, and a lot of that was just his strong work ethic.”

When Bryant died in a helicopter crash in 2020, it was a stunning, seismic event, especially for a young basketball player who had interacted with him. Forrest remembers where he was and exactly what he was doing when he got the news.

“I was at Columbia in January; I was walking back and getting some food, and one of my teammates texted in our group chat a tweet saying, ‘Kobe Bryant dies in a helicopter crash.’ And I’m like ‘All right, this is [nonsense].’ I think everybody probably had the same reaction,” Forrest said.

But the truth eventually hit Forrest harder than many others, because of the time they spent together.

“That night, it really overcame me and it really hit me,” Forrest added. “I have [Bryant’s] jersey hanging in my room. I’m wearing number 24 [at St. Joe’s.] And so all these things just hit you emotionally and make me realize how fragile life is.”

A few months later, Forrest decided to transfer to St. Joseph’s. Forrest lives only 10 minutes away from Hawk Hill. But coming home was not the deciding factor. It was more of a basketball fit.

“At Columbia, I think everybody knows there’s a strong emphasis on academics in the Ivy League and that kind of spread throughout the school. There’s not necessarily a real student body that really loves coming to the basketball games,” Forrest said.

Forrest was intrigued by the strong basketball culture at St. Joseph’s, and the level of competition within the Atlantic 10 Conference.

“The emphasis on the basketball program at St. Joe’s has been great for me. It’s given me an opportunity to improve as a player with a higher level of competition every day in practice,” he said.

St. Joseph’s was not originally the plan when Forrest entered the transfer portal because he initially wanted to continue to stay away from home.

“During my initial recruitment out of high school, I wanted to get out of the city of Philadelphia. I wanted to explore another area of the world or the country,” he said. “When I was looking to transfer, I actually had the same thoughts in my mind. Like, let me try somewhere else out and maybe not the city of Philadelphia.”

However, St. Joseph’s showed too much interest in Forrest for him to pass it up.

“Coach [Billy] Lange and the St. Joe’s staff called and they recruited me the hardest,” Forrest said. “I loved their vision for the program, so it just felt like the best choice for me.”

Forrest is averaging 4.1 points in his second season with the Hawks, while also contributing the team’s second highest assist-to-turnover ratio (1.29), second only to Jordan Hall.