Shan Foster: "When Nobody was Watching, I had to be Working"

Shan Foster: "When Nobody was Watching, I had to be Working"
May 27, 2008, 02:56 am
Shan Foster/Danny Green Workout Article

When you first see Shan Foster, he looks every bit the big time college basketball player. He towers above the general public, sports a t-shirt large enough to house a married couple and a pair of aviators equally as big. Within five minutes of interacting with him, though, it quickly becomes apparent that this kid is just that: a kid. Foster fills you in on how boring his recent graduation was because, “it just went on and on forever.” You learn about how much he enjoys cheese steaks; despite the number they do on his trainer’s stomach. Naturally you hear about how good he is at the latest version of Tiger Woods Golf on Xbox 360, and about how much he is looking forward to the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp.

After spending much of the day in the back of a car with Foster, driving around New York City and Long Island, you learn a lot about a kid who put Vanderbilt basketball on the national map. After spending almost six hours with him, after watching him drain three-pointer after three-pointer, the thing that really stands out about Foster though is his humility.

This is a guy who felt bad when he had to call up a prospective financial adviser to inform him he was going with someone else. When he got the individual’s voicemail he hung up, opting to call back later because according to him, “you should never give bad news in a voicemail.” This is a guy who would throw the opening tips for fraternity league basketball games at Vanderbilt, because he felt it brought him closer to the other students. As one of his school’s all-time great players and one of the best sharp shooters in SEC history, if anyone deserved to have a cocky aura about them, it’s Foster. To understand how such a decorated athlete can stay so humble, though, you have to understand where he has come from, what he has endured and how hard he has worked.

Foster, a native of Kenner, Louisiana (just 20 minutes outside of New Orleans), grew up playing basketball on the AAU circuit as a member of the New Orleans Jazz, where he racked up a solid reputation in the basketball world. An invitation to the prestigious ABCD Camp in 2002 garnered plenty of attention from major programs, including Georgetown and Kansas. These traditional powerhouses weren’t the first schools to get in on the recruiting sweepstakes for Foster. It was during a trip to Houston that Foster was spotted by a member of the Vanderbilt coaching staff.

“He asked me if I had ever heard of Vanderbilt before, and I said no,” Foster remarked with a laugh.

The Commodores were fresh off a twenty-three win season, but prior to that had spent several years in the basement of the SEC. Despite the lack of hoops prestige, Foster’s father knew the university had a prestigious academic reputation, and encouraged his son to give the program a chance. A pair of visits to the campus would be all Foster would need.

“I took an unofficial visit and loved it; then went on an official visit and loved it again. After that, I told the coaches I was coming.”

Happy to be with his new team, Foster now had to work on transitioning positions. The now prolific perimeter shooter spent most of his prep career playing in the post at Bonnabel High School, but his slight 6’6” 200 pound frame wasn’t built for banging in the physical SEC. The switch didn’t take very long, as Foster connected on nearly 45% of his shot attempts from beyond the arc as a freshman. Numbers like that beg the question: how did he do it?

“Hard work; there’s no real secret or miraculous thing to it. It’s being in the gym everyday, and like I said before, you’ve got to love the grind, otherwise it’s not going to work. Even when nobody was watching, and everyone was sleeping; I had to be working, simply because I had so much more ground to cover.”

The work would pay off, as Foster earned All-SEC Freshman Team honors. Whatever enjoyment Foster would get from his successful first season with Vanderbilt would be short lived, though, as his world would change abruptly at the very beginning of his sophomore year. Hurricane Katrina’s path of destruction through the southeastern part of the US would deeply affect both Foster and his family. While there were no injuries to family members, Foster’s home suffered severe damages that would have to be repaired, while his cousins lost their house. Dozens of other friends and family members close to Foster would be displaced from their homes, many never to return.

“It was a devastating experience. Everything I saw on the news, it really didn’t do the experience justice at all. It really humbles you; it makes you appreciate life and everything you have.”

Foster would return to the basketball court with a new found fire after Katrina. The next three years saw Foster emerge as one of the most dangerous perimeter players in the country. In addition to earning SEC Player of the Year honors this past season, he became the first player in Vanderbilt history to finish with over 2,000 career points.

More important than the individual accomplishments though, Foster played a major role in bringing the Commodores into the national spotlight, including spearheading a win over then number one Tennessee. The soft spoken senior is quick to make sure all parties receive credit for the rise of not only his game, but the program as a whole.

“We have great coaches, great fans, a great community, and they all treated me like I was family; they made me feel comfortable the whole time I was there. All of that made it so much easier for me to go in, work hard and put my best foot forward.”

What makes these achievements all the more impressive is the fact that almost half of Foster’s career totals were achieved with poor vision. According to the sharp shooter, a visit to the eye doctor during his sophomore year revealed that he should have been wearing corrective lenses for years. After trying glasses for a week, he eventually opted to wear contact lenses.

So what does a stellar college career like Shan Foster’s get you? A rental apartment in New York City and a ninety minute commute to Long Island four days a week. Foster makes the trip to work out at a tiny elementary school gym with local trainer Jerry Powell. After three weeks of workouts that have focused on improving his ball handling and getting him plenty of reps shooting the ball, results are already apparent, and Foster knows who is partly responsible.

“If you’re working out with a guy who is passionate about what he does then it’s interesting. He’s always trying to push you to be the best player you can be, and I know that. It’s like I tell Jerry everyday, I’m going to do whatever you tell me to do,” he says with a laugh.

While his ball-handling have been the biggest focus on the court, gaining weight has been the focus in the weight room. Since the season ended, Foster has put on a few pounds, with the hopes of reaching 210 pounds by the time the draft rolls around.

The focus now though is getting his game ready for the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp and the slew of individual team workouts that await him in the upcoming weeks. While he didn’t have any specific dates or franchises to share for his workout schedule, he did say that his agent has a busy few weeks lined up for him. Foster is relishing the opportunity to show what he can do in both environments, but made it known how much he is looking forward to playing in Orlando.

“It’ll be a great experience. Historically I’ve really excelled in those types of environments; the camp environment. Every camp I’ve gone to I’ve played well at. I have a certain charisma about myself where those situations work well for me. You get to meet a lot of new people, everyone is battling for a spot; it brings out the best in everyone’s game, it forces you to play your best.”

Foster’s hope is that his strong character will make a favorable impression with any GM’s or scouts he deals with while showing off his abilities. Of course, for a player who models his game after Ray Allen, among others, it’s no surprise that Foster says his range will be one of the key factors that will earn him points with scouts. For now, though, there are still a few days left before he will board the plane that will take him to possibly the most important camp of his life.

After one of his most recent workouts, Foster sat shirtless on a wooden bench, beads of sweat pouring down his face. He didn’t hide the fact that he was unhappy with what he considered an off shooting day for himself; this despite hitting 60% of his NBA three-point attempts. His self-proclaimed toughest critic, Foster begrudgingly left the miniature gym to start on his long drive back to the Big Apple. A weight lifting session and several pick-up games were still on the day’s agenda, but it was apparent he felt like he had unfinished business at his first stop of the afternoon.

On the return trip, the conversation quickly turned to finding food as soon as possible, but with his entire future potentially being decided in less than two weeks, the magnitude of everything he has done and what waits ahead, was not lost on Foster.

“It’s really amazing to me to see what God has brought me from. Being able to make the transition to college guard; now potentially to NBA guard, has been a phenomenal experience for me. I’ve been blessed to always be surrounded by great people, not only people that keep me focused, but people who push me towards another level.”

Not one to bask in his own talent and glory, Foster turned to look out his back window, perhaps to further contemplate the future.

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