VU's total-person approach helped lure Foster

Chalk one up for Chancellor Gordon Gee's restructuring-- and chalk one up for Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who's confounding his critics with some outstanding recruiting. Here's the inside story of the recruitment of Kenner, La. forward Shan Foster, and what it means for the "New Vanderbilt."

Kenner, La. forward Shane Foster is a Top 40 recruit nationally. He's the kind of high school player who could easily have called a press conference to announce his college commitment, as scores of hot prospects have done recently.

Instead, without fanfare, he invited a local reporter to his coach's office, and quietly placed a phone call to Vanderbilt head coach to tell him he had chosen the Commodores. And that was that.

"It was very informal," Bonnabel High School coach Glenn Dyer told network Tuesday. "He wanted to try to keep it quiet, so there weren't too many rumors and negative things going on."

The 6-6, 185-pounder took the first of his official visits to Vanderbilt the weekend of Sept. 6, and at the time was sold on what he saw.

"He loved the people there," said Dyer. "The coaches were great with him when he visited. He had a great visit with the players. He competed with them a little bit and played with them. But he really, really liked Coach Stallings."

But three days later, Chancellor Gordon Gee dropped a bomb that reverberated all the way down to Vanderbilt's recruits. Though Gee was convinced bringing the athletic department under the oversight of Vice Chancellor David Williams would ultimately be a positive, Stallings and the Commodores' coaches suddenly had some selling to do with recruits.

Stallings said recently that the way the announcement was spun by the media had made his job more difficult.

"We were able to get with the parents, get with the kids, and explain what was going on, and that explanation was sufficient," Stallings said. "The twist that the media put on it gave it an appearance of something that is was not, or is not.

"But I think people see that there are advantages to the concept. We as a basketball staff were fortunate in that most of the people we were dealing with were willing to listen and gave us a chance to explain what was going on."

In the case of Foster, Stallings was able to communicate the news about the changes in such a way that it all made sense. On Tuesday Foster announced that he had picked Vanderbilt over LSU, Georgetown and Southern Mississippi.

"Really, I think that's why he chose Vanderbilt," said Dyer. "They're interested in the whole kid. They've been real good about education and basketball, but they got to know him as a person. I think that's why he really liked Vanderbilt. Some of the other schools weren't too concerned about education, or even his whole life. They [Vanderbilt's coaches] were interested in everything about him."

Hmmm... maybe there is something to this "confluence of mind, body and spirit" stuff after all. Foster is the kind of recruit that typically takes a hard look at a school like Vanderbilt, and ultimately turns up his nose. His test scores, though sufficient, are nothing to set the world on fire. But this time, something clicked between Foster and the Commodore coaching staff.

"He played the 4 and 5 for us in high school, because he does so many things," said Dyer. "He rebounds. He's so long and tall. He has an 84-inch wingspan, so he could easily be a 6-8, 6-9 kid. He's only 17, so I think he's got another growth spurt there."

Foster's stock began to soar after some outstanding play last summer for the New Orleans Jazz of the AAU. As a member of that team Foster participated three prominent national camps-- the Bob Gibbons Camp in Chapel Hill, N. C., the ABCD in Teaneck, N. J., the Big Time in Las Vegas.

"He's gone from being rated 144th in the nation to a Top 50 player," said Dyer. "He's really improved in both his shooting and his ball handling. Some coaches have him scoped out to play the 2 or 3 spot in college."

Where does Dyer see Foster fitting into the Commodore program?

"Right now he's probably a 2-man or 3-man in college, but he could still have another growth spurt. His dad is 6-8. So I could see him being a 6-8, 215-220-pound kid in the next year or so. He could play a good, solid small forward, power forward, or a good shooting guard. He runs the floor well. He shot 48% from behind the [3-point] line last year. At the ABCD Camp, he shot 54% from the 3-point line.

"He averaged 21 points a game last year. He's been working on individual skills. He's really matured a lot as a kid, too. He's been around some good players.

"I don't think he realized how good he was until this summer when he started playing with some of the local college teams, and went all over the country playing some of the best players in the country. For the last month and a half, he's been playing with some of the pros here-- we have the Hornets here, and he's been working out with these guys. He's been playing with Jonathan Bender of the Indiana Pacers, and Jonathan's been in contact with him, because he thinks one day he's going to be in the NBA.

"He averaged 11 rebounds a game for me last year. He goes to the boards well, can really jump. He's got every kind of dunk you can imagine. He can get out there and guard people on the perimeter also, which should be a good asset also. He doesn't like when people score on him! He blocked about 4.5 shots a game last year, but he can defend on the perimeter also.

"He's got a great personality. He's not a cocky kid. He'll speak to just about anybody. The teachers love him. He plays piano and sings in the church choir. He's just an all-around talented kid.

"But the biggest thing about him is, he's just a great person."

Chalk one up for Chancellor Gordon Gee's restructuring. And while you're at it, chalk one up for Stallings, who's confounding his critics with some outstanding recruiting at a time when he's supposedly "on the hot seat."

The downside? If he grows and develops properly, Foster could someday become the first Vanderbilt player ever to leave early for the NBA draft. But right now for Stallings, who has three outstanding commitments for the early signing period and is working feverishly for a fourth, that's a nice problem to have to think about.

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