Foster on the Upswing?

Freshman Alex Foster was one of the few bright spots Saturday against Oklahoma. He could be seeing more playing time moving forward this season.

Except for a select few wunderkinds, the life of a true freshman
basketball player in a conference as tough as the Big 12, is filled with ups and downs, and probably more of the latter than the former. Texas Tech forward Alex Foster is no exception to the rule.

The Chicago native, whose recruitment was filled with vicissitudes, was tabbed as one of the very hottest prospects in the nation as a high school freshman, but did not quite live up to those lofty projections throughout the rest of his prep career. By the time he signed with Tubby Smith at Minnesota, and later with Texas Tech, Foster was rated as a three-star prospect.

Predictably, Foster has seen highs and lows in his extremely brief collegiate career. In non-conference play, and even in preseason workouts, Foster turned heads. Tubby Smith heaped praise on the improvement Foster had made in practice, and the 6-foot-8 newcomer staked his claim to significant minutes early on with impressive play against lesser collegiate competition. Foster's most extensive playing time came in the Northern Arizona game when he logged 14 minutes.

But as the competition stiffened, and Big 12 play commenced, Foster's role diminished. One could almost say he was a forgotten man. Hence, prior to Tech's most recent game against Oklahoma, Foster averaged only 1.7 minutes of play against Big 12 opponents.

That all changed against the Sooners, however. With the Red Raiders suffering grievously and Tubby Smith searching for answers, the coach called on Foster and the youngster answered the bell. In 14 minutes of play—the most since Northern Arizona—Foster dang near recorded a double. He scored eight points and pulled down an equal number of rebounds. Project those numbers to 40 minutes and you're looking at approximately 22 points and 22 rebounds.

Tech lost the game, but Foster's performance didn't escape Tubby Smith's notice. "Great," said Smith when asked what he thought about the job Foster did against Oklahoma.

"I though Alex was outstanding. Got some more playing time. Played hard. Played harder than anybody else."

Foster played hard, but he also played well. The Red Raiders, always a strong rebounding team this season, whipped OU on the glass, and Foster was critical to that success.

He is not a jumping jack like Darvin Ham or Andre Emmett, but is a strong and crafty player who has a knack for rebound positioning. There is something of Shane Battier to his game.

But what's extra special about Foster is that his forte is offensive rebounding. Thirty-eight percent of Foster's rebounds this season have come on the offensive glass; that is a high number. And against the Sooners, Foster converted those offensive boards into put-backs on multiple occasions.

In his postgame remarks, Foster was low-key about his play against Oklahoma.

"I just tried to come out and do the best I could," said Foster. "Just told myself to get every rebound I could, and it just worked out for me."

Given his strong performance in Tech's latest outing, it is only natural to suspect that Foster will be given ample opportunity to reprise it in future games. Naturally, Foster wouldn't object to that, but regardless, he intends to make effort the hallmark of his game.

"I honestly hope so [that he will become a key cog]. I'm trying my best to go give it my all and help the team any way I can. And if that makes my role expand, so be it. I'll just give it my all, as hard as I can."

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