Everything seemed to go right for Marcus Foster last season. The athletic guard arrived at Kansas State as a freshman and instantly became the Wildcats’ top scorer, playing so far above expectations that he surprised himself.
Now he wants to do more.
Though Foster has achieved most of his success as a shooting guard — coming off screens and making open shots on the perimeter or attacking the basket — he also has visions of thriving as a point guard.
All summer, while competing at prestigious skills camps run by NBA all-stars and working out on campus with his teammates, Foster worked on his ball-handling skills. He had one goal in mind: Becoming a true combo guard.
“For his sake, for his future, I think it is a positive thing that he handles the ball more,” K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber said Wednesday at Big 12 Media Day at the Sprint Center.
How much more? That is the million-dollar question.
Neither Foster nor Weber has the answer.
“I want to play point guard, but I am more comfortable off the ball,” Foster said leading up to the start of practice two weeks ago. “With this time we have coming up, I think it is going to have me more comfortable to play point guard in the Big 12. Early on we might not show it much. I’m not sure what we are going to do with it, but around Big 12 time I feel like it will be good for me to play point guard and I will feel comfortable doing it.”
Changing positions, even for small periods, is an odd request for a player who averaged 15.5 points as a freshman and was named to the Big 12’s preseason all-conference team as a sophomore. Foster’s game isn’t broken. So why fix it? Especially when he committed a team-high 73 turnovers last year and two other sophomore guards, Nigel Johnson and Jevon Thomas, return with more experience at point guard?
The move isn’t meant to replace either Johnson or Thomas. Weber said their progress will have a major impact this season. Ideally, Weber said, he can depend on all three players.
If Foster finds success at point guard, it will boost his stock as a potential pro. But it isn’t totally about that either.
Mainly, using Foster in two spots creates lineup versatility for a roster that features an abundance of new talent and depth. Maine transfer Justin Edwards, who figures to lift a considerable scoring burden off Foster’s shoulders, can play shooting guard and small forward. Wesley Iwundu can play small forward and go inside. And Johnson showed late last year that he can excel as a shooter away from the ball.
With Foster at point guard, Weber can use all of them together and K-State can put its top scorers on the floor at the same time. With Foster at shooting guard, Weber can use a completely different lineup.
“You have a tandem like me, Justin, (Stephen) Hurt and (Thomas) Gipson all on the floor with Nigel, and that is a whole bunch of people who can score,” Foster said. “We can run in transition with that group.”
Weber envisions having three guards that can push the ball at any given moment.
“That is when you are most effective,” Weber said, “especially fastbreak-wise, more so than when you have one guy who can dribble the basketball.”
It’s a bold change that, even used sparingly, wasn’t possible last season, when K-State had a small rotation of dependable players.
So far, the change has been positive.
“He is doing real good right now,” said Gipson, a K-State senior, of Foster. “He is bringing the ball up the court. He isn’t afraid of anything and he is handling it really well.”
Johnson is long shot to play
D.J. Johnson, a junior forward from St. Louis, is still recovering from the broken foot he suffered against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Coach Bruce Weber said Johnson continues to wear a walking boot. At this point, he considers Johnson a “long shot” to play this season. Unless Johnson shows rapid improvement in the next month, he will likely sit out the upcoming season with a redshirt.
Johnson averaged 3.5 points a year ago while serving as Thomas Gipson’s primary backup.
▪ For the second straight year, K-State will host one exhibition game and scrimmage against a power-conference opponent before the season begins. The scrimmage is set for Oct. 26 in Omaha against Nebraska, according to a source. The NCAA prohibits schools from publicly announcing information about such scrimmages.
| Kellis Robinett, firstname.lastname@example.org