SOUTH HOLLAND | Whether sitting in Tubby Smith’s kitchen eating omelets and raspberries, gleaning NBA moves from former Pacers standout Antonio Davis or texting with Charlotte Bobcats rookie Anthony Davis, Alex Foster has always looked upward.
A 6-foot-8 senior center for Seton Academy by way of De La Salle, Foster has always been interested in stars. No, not stars such as former AAU teammate Jabari Parker of Simeon, nor the uni-browed most outstanding player of the most recent NCAA Final Four, Anthony Davis.
Foster, who’s always been taller than his classmates since kindergarten, often stares at the sky at night, amazed by the unreachable stars.
“I’m extremely fascinated with astronomy,” he said. “I can pick out constellations in the sky all the time.”
But as he ponders what is beyond our solar system, Foster has some sound earthly aspirations.
“My biggest goal is to finally go down state and win a championship,” Foster said. “I want to make myself better and prove to myself that I can be everything that I can be.”
The latter goal is what led him to leave De La Salle and come to Seton, where he feels he probably should have been all along.
Born in Joliet, Foster moved from Plainfield to Orland Park during his freshman year as he attended De La Salle on Chicago’s South Side. He had pondered attending Seton back then because current Sting coach Brandon Thomas, Foster's coach in eighth grade, was there.
However, he went with De La Salle based on its rich academic tradition and solid basketball program and little other knowledge of the school.
By the end of his sophomore year Foster decided his junior year would be his final shot. Despite a successful junior season that included averages of 15 points and 10 rebounds, he didn’t feel college-ready.
He told his coach he didn’t think he was getting better as rapidly as he wanted to, and his coach disagreed, which turned him off. Foster wanted to formulate an improvement plan, but he was told he was fine.
“There was nothing; it was so nonchalant,” Foster said. “I felt like, when I go to college I need to be ready to be able to play with grown men. It’s a whole other level when you go to college. I need to be in the position to get better.”
A move to Seton to be with Thomas and former De La Salle teammate Kamal Shasi was the easiest solution.
“Seton was a better place for me at the beginning, but I never went there,” Foster said. “It was the better move from the get-go; I just never had a chance to make it.”
Now he feels accountable to Thomas daily in practice, sees himself improving and earns high praise from Shasi and backcourt mate Mark Weems, who were the key to Seton going 28-6 and taking fourth in Class 2A last season.
“He’s one of the best big men I’ve ever played with,” Shasi said. “His freshman year he didn’t have this maturity. When he wasn’t playing well he’d hang his head. Now he’s learned to make mistakes and move on from it.”
Said Thomas: “It’s as if he’s been here his whole career. He’s definitely one of our guys.”
With his senior year destination decided, all that remained was a college choice, and in October, Foster, the product of a solid upbringing by both parents, told the world he had decided upon Minnesota. The honor roll student narrowed a list of suitors that had included Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Harvard, Tennessee and of course, Illinois.
Golden Gophers head coach Tubby Smith won. Perhaps it was his breakfast casserole recipe. He cooked for recruits on a visit and had eggs, sausage, bacon, muffins and fresh fruit. Foster noticed the side of compassion.
“He said he just loves my game, and when a legend like that says he loves my game, how can you not like that?” Foster said. “He can be like a father figure to me. I don’t need one because I have a great father, but it just shows he’s there for his players. He’s not just there for the job. He actually cares.”
Foster signed his national letter-of-intent Wednesday morning and faxed it north.
It was the realization of a dream that started in fifth grade with ICE -- Illinois Central Elite, a Chicago-based team coached by former NBA center Antonio Davis, on which No. 1 national recruit Jabari Parker played along with Tommy Hamilton.
“Antonio taught me how to play basketball, how to be tough, period,” Foster said. “He taught me NBA moves. He took me under his wing in fifth grade. He was a big influence.”
Once considered one of the top 25 players in the class of 2013, Foster now resides outside the top 100. Nonetheless, he has his Big Ten scholarship and a senior year that will be fueled by a desire to achieve his potential.
“He approaches it the way you’d like to see,” Thomas said. “He’s very mature. It does not bother him. He’s not trying to live up to what other people say he should be.
“His goal this year is to win a state championship. He’s not really focused on what other people are saying.”