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Foster expected to play big role early

By Joel Jellison

On paper, it might seem tough to figure out how Kansas State has any chance of replacing the production Rodney McGruder brought to the Wildcats.

McGruder scored a team-leading 15.6 points per game, and added 5.4 rebounds per contest. And of the Wildcats’ returning players, none even averaged double figures and only one player had more that four rebounds per game.

But when the K-State coaches look at the roster, they point to a guy that might be capable of filling the big hole left by McGruder’s graduation — freshman guard Marcus Foster.

Foster’s teammates have described him as playing with Kobe Bryant-like moves, and he’s said to be a more diverse player than McGruder, just not nearly as polished.

Foster admits the prospect of stepping right in to McGruder’s shoes and trying to fill the void had him a little nervous at first.

“I was a little skeptical about it,” the 6-foot-2 Wichita Falls, Texas, native said. “I didn’t know if I could handle it, but the guys got me comfortable and let me know, yes you can score and you can do this.

“It’s a lot of pressure coming in and having to step up after Rodney McGruder and all of the coaches telling me I have to score. But I like pressure, it really doesn’t bother me.”

To start, Foster makes it clear he’s not McGruder, and he’s not going to try to be McGruder. He has his own game, and he’s going to play it in his own style.

His teammates comparing his moves to Kobe might be accurate. Foster said he studies the way Bryant handles the ball and how he shoots off the dribble and on leans, and he tries to include it in his game.

He knows his game isn’t perfect, and his biggest areas of improvement are ball handling and one-on-one moves.

K-State coach Bruce Weber wants to see him improve in an area that would have him pick up some of the slack left by McGruder — rebounding.

“Foster rebounded in high school, over 10 per game,” he said. “But it seems right now he is so worried about other things that he is not rebounding. He has the athleticism. We are going to have to team rebound. If (Thomas) Gipson has to guard a big-time rebounder he is going to have to box him out and everyone else is going to have to pursue the basketball.”

Foster describes himself as a fast-paced player who likes to run the floor and can score in a variety of ways. And he says he can also defend the ball well.

The first time he came to Manhattan during the recruitment process, he immediately felt at home. He has attached himself to seniors Will Spradling and Shane Southwell as his mentors, and speaks highly of their ability to teach and lead.

Foster has a large tattoo — a lion with a long, flowing mane — on his right shoulder. On the left side, he has a design dedicated to his parents. And on the inside of his right forearm, he has a phrase dedicated to one of his former coaches.

“This lion I got, it means — people respect lions when they see them and when they see them they’re like, ‘oh I don’t want to mess with them,’ so that’s why I got the lion,” he said. “(The left shoulder) one is for my mom and dad and then I have this, one of my assistant coaches that always said be hungry and be humble, so I got that for him.”

Foster seems pretty hungry to get the season going too. Asked what his favorite moment of the game is, he said the end of the game, with the ball in his hands.

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