LARAMIE – Haize Fornstrom was spending his first Christmas break from the University of Wyoming helping his father, Joe, chase and feed cows on their ranch near Pine Bluffs.
He knew the Cowboys basketball team was starting to get shorthanded because of injuries, suspension and attrition.
UW coach Allen Edwards and his staff had lightly recruited Fornstrom during a standout career that saw him earn three All-Class 2A honors and win two state titles. But Fornstrom chose to join the Cowboys football program as a preferred walk-on because its coaches had shown him more attention.
Fornstrom had thought about reaching out to the coaches when he returned for the spring semester to see if they could use an extra body, but he wasn’t sure if he was going to.
Fornstrom didn’t need to get in touch with the basketball staff – they got in touch with him.
“I was at lunch with my family when I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket,” he said. “I pulled it out and saw it was (UW assistant) Jeremy Shyatt calling. He called to ask if I was interested in joining the basketball team.”
Fornstrom played in 12 games during the Cowboys’ 8-24 season. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 1.3 points and 4.5 minutes per game.
Fornstrom enjoyed his time with the basketball team so much that he traded his football cleats for basketball shoes full time.
“It was probably silly for me to pick football out of high school, but I’m glad I gave it a try, and figured out I didn’t really like it as much as I thought I did,” he said. “I fell back in love with basketball after playing last year. I feel like I’m home now.”
Fornstrom was trying to add weight to play wide receiver and weighed 210 pounds when he was asked to return to the basketball court. He also was a few weeks removed from football season. His body wasn’t ready to play basketball initially.
“The first couple of days of practice, we had a garbage can handy just in case he needed it,” fourth-year UW coach Allen Edwards said. “What they were asking of him in football was different than what we were asking of him in basketball. He had to flip a switch and go in a completely different direction.
“But he is a tough kid, and he has done a tremendous job transforming his body.”
The Cowboys basketball roster lists Fornstrom at 185 pounds. He has the skill to play shooting guard and the toughness to play either forward position. Fornstrom’s attention to detail and competitive nature made an impression on Edwards.
“Some guys get so caught up in wanting to do this and that – the big things – that they overlook the little things,” the coach said. “Sometimes doing the little things gets you noticed because that’s what we’re looking for as coaches. I can’t say right now what he is going to be doing for us, but whatever he does, he will be ready.”
Edwards also likes Fornstrom’s leadership and the way he has helped the Cowboys’ six newcomers during practice.
“He doesn’t mind speaking up,” Edwards said. “He might be young himself, but he paid attention and learned what we’re trying to do. Whether he plays on the perimeter or at the four spot, he really gets our system both offensively and defensively.”
Edwards hasn’t ruled out redshirting Fornstrom to give him another year of development.
Regardless of what happens, Fornstrom knows he followed his heart.
“Whenever we didn’t have football practice last year, I was in Half Acre Gym playing basketball,” he said. “I really love this sport. We had 6 a.m. practice (Wednesday).
“That’s not a lot of fun, but there were a lot more parts of practice where I was having fun than parts where I wasn’t. That helps a lot.”