It’s now July and Marcus Foster still hasn’t forgotten about Kentucky.
That 56-49 loss to the other Wildcats in the NCAA tournament ended Kansas State’s season a year ago and is a big part of what’s fueling the talented sophomore this summer to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I think about it a lot,” Foster said, visiting with media on Monday afternoon at the Basketball Training Facility. “Just watching it — the little mistakes we made could have changed that game. Down four, we could have made a little run, but we turned it over and then they made their run and we could never catch back up.”
The Wildcats finished 20-13 last season and advanced to their fifth straight NCAA tournament, but the loss to Kentucky was really just a microcosm of the up-and-down season K-State had — one that saw the Wildcats go just 5-11 away from Bramlage Coliseum.
“The road games, that Kentucky game, it’s all going help us this year,” Foster said. “When we go to West Virginia and we need to make that one play, we’re going to make that play next year.”
Foster and the Wildcats have their sights set on something bigger than just making the Big Dance next season.
“I have high expectations — not just for myself, but for my team — we’re all holding ourselves accountable,” Foster said. “You go into our locker room and you see signs that say, ‘Road to the Final Four,’ ‘Outright Big 12 championship.’”
But first Foster will be trying to make some plays this week when he takes part in the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. One of 30 college players selected for the camp, Foster will spend four days — July 9-12 — participating in competitive skills workouts and 5-on-5 games to help showcase their talents for NBA scouts.
“This is something I really wanted to be a part of — to be able to go against a four-time MVP and some of the top players in the country,” said Foster, who led the Wildcats in eight categories a year ago, including scoring at 15.5 points per game.
“I feel that people are still sleeping on me, even though I had a great year. I’m just going to keep going out and showing people how good I really am — I want to be on top.”
Foster — one of five players from the Big 12 to garner the LeBron camp invite — was selected after participating in the Nike Guards Academy June 23-25 in Union, N.J., a skills camp tutored by NBA players Kyrie Irving, Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke.
“I didn’t think I showed them much, but I guess they saw something in me,” said Foster, who was named to the All-Big 12 second team as a freshman. “I didn’t shoot the ball that well, but I played better at point guard than I thought I could, though. I guess I showed them something.”
The 6-foot-2 Wichita Falls, Texas, native has tried to use his summer camping to hone his point guard skills — a position he anticipates playing more next season with Maine transfer Justin Edwards now in the fold and Will Spradling gone. It’s also the position he believes he’ll be asked to play at the professional level someday.
“Coach (Bruce Weber) always talks about my future, if I want to better my future, I’m going to have to be a point guard,” Foster said. “But really for me, I’ll be more of a combo for this team because I have to score the ball a little bit. With the motion offense, I think I’ll be able to do a little of both.
“In order to improve my game and help my team out, I’m going to have to handle the ball a little more next year.”
Edwards, a 6-4 guard who averaged an America East Conference-best 16.7 points per game as a sophomore at Maine, will potentially give the Wildcats another dynamic scorer, so much so that Foster has said he thinks Edwards will actually be K-State’s top scorer next season.
“He shoots the ball so well and it’s hard to guard him,” Foster said of his new backcourt mate. “If you overplay him, he’s going to go right by you and dunk on your big man. He’s a mismatch for whoever guards him in the Big 12.”
The two have been so good together during workouts that Weber has often tried to keep them on separate teams because nobody can guard them both.
“When you have guys like (Jevon Thomas) and Nigel (Johnson) — they just penetrate and kick it out — and you have two shooters and two athletes on the wings, so it’s hard to guard when we’re on the same team.
“Coach Weber really tries to keep us apart sometimes.”
Edwards and 6-11 sophomore forward Brandon Bolden — who transferred from Georgetown a year ago — will join a K-State team that returns nine lettermen, including five with starting experience — headlined by Foster and Thomas Gipson (11.7 points per game). In all, the Wildcats return more than 70 percent of their scoring and 65 percent of their rebounding from a season ago.