Alex Foster was a starter on the Chicago De La Salle Institute varsity basketball team his first game as a freshman. He showed signs of youthful nervousness at the State Farm Thanksgiving Tournament in Washington, Illinois, in November. But he didn't take long to acclimate.
"In the end, it's all about playing basketball," Foster realized. "It's just basketball, so go out there and play."
Led by nationally ranked Mike Shaw, De La Salle was expected to be one of the best teams in the Chicago area. But the loss of three talented senior guards to graduation took it's toll early in the season. Fellow freshman Jaylon Tate was even more nervous on the court than Foster, and the other wing players were just getting their feet wet.
The Meteors put things together in time for a grand stretch run and came close to advancing far in the Illinois state tournament. The youngsters learned how head coach Tom White needed them to play.
"Yeah, we lost a tough game to Foreman, but we still had a pretty good year. We figured it out."
The 2010-11 season should be one of the school's best according to Foster.
"We're gonna have a better year next year. And we're gonna have a better schedule next year. We're going to places like Milwaukee, maybe Hawaii or some place like that. We've got about 3-4 sophomores that are gonna be moving up to the varsity level. They should make an impact for us."
Foster is still an unpolished emerald on the court. He has tremendous potential, but he has yet to put it all together. When he does, he should be a threat both inside and outside.
"I need to improve on my threes, handling the ball and shooting a little more. Be more aggressive to the basket."
Actually, he is already a willing driver and enjoys penetrating for short shots. Ironically, the lefty shoots better with his right hand inside.
"I need to work on my left hand a little more. I shoot left handed, so it's weird. I write right handed."
The best players are at least somewhat ambidextrous, allowing them more options both offensively and defensively. Foster may be going through a "weird" phase right now, but he will figure it all out eventually.
Foster also plays with the Meanstreets 15 and Under AAU team. Speaking after a loss to the Illinois Timberwolves in the Spiece Run n' Slam Tournament in Fort Wayne, Foster bragged about his team's usual success.
"We're doing real good. The last loss we had before this one was against the New Jersey Playas at the Boo Williams Camp in Virginia. Usually we win by 20, 30 or 40."
Of course, playing at 8:00am after three games the day before might have contributed to the upset. Foster is getting a lot of recruiting attention, but he is taking a mature approach. He realizes the value of enjoying his youth while he has it.
"I've been thinking about it, but not that much. I just want to be a kid still."
Foster used to play with Jabari Parker and Tommy Hamilton, Junior, two other outstanding players in the 2013 class. There has been talk the three might not wish to play together in college, but Foster says that is not coming from him.
"We used to play together on Rising Stars. But we split up after the 8th grade year. I wouldn't mind playing with them. I don't know why we split up."
It might be a pipe dream for any school to recruit all three players, but the school getting the intelligent and talented Foster will be happy indeed.