Marcus Foster had a message for anyone willing to listen following his bounce-back game against TCU on Wednesday: “I’m back.”
The sophomore Kansas State guard twice uttered those words when he was done leading the Wildcats to a much-needed victory over the Horned Frogs by scoring a game-high 23 points.
It wasn’t his best game of the season, but it may have been the most satisfying, considering his recent struggles.
“To the doubters, I’m not going anywhere,” Foster said. “I may have a little off week, but I’m still here and ready to compete for this team, and hopefully get a lot of wins in the Big 12.”
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If K-State hopes to bounce back from the disappointing nonconference portion of its schedule with a winning Big 12 record, it will need Foster to continue playing the way he did against TCU. Not the way he performed in losses to Georgia and Oklahoma State, in which he lost his starting spot and appeared disinterested on the bench.
Foster led the Wildcats in scoring as a freshman and continues to do so. But he has been erratic, topping the 20-point mark in important games against Purdue, Arizona, Tennessee and TCU, while shrinking into a non-factor in defeat.
Two stats define his sophomore season: 13.7 points and 2.4 turnovers. Both are team highs.
K-State coach Bruce Weber won’t commit to starting Foster until his effort and mindset improve to Weber’s satisfaction.
“He played hard and acted and played like we hoped he would,” Weber said. “I just told him, ‘We can’t start you. You’ve got to earn it on the court. It’s for yourself and our team.’ Obviously, he had a pretty good night and we needed him. I just said, ‘This is not me against you, this is not our staff against you. This is about playing hard, playing the right way, doing what we’ve asked.’ I feel like he responded to that in a very positive fashion.”
The key may be Foster’s mental approach.
He can’t repeat the Oklahoma State game, going scoreless on the court and pouting on the bench.
“Me not being me,” Foster explained when asked about the Oklahoma State game. “Bad body language, bad attitude with the coaches. That is something I have never done and something that is never going to happen again.”
Now he considers his slump a learning tool that was both “humbling” and a “good experience.”
“I lost a little confidence in myself coming off of Stillwater,” Foster said. “On the bus, I didn’t know what to think was going to happen. It could have went either way. But I just wanted to prove to myself that I am a good basketball player. Don’t get down on yourself, it happens to every basketball player.”
TCU coach Trent Johnson figured Foster would regain his focus.
“He has probably gotten away from what made him good,” Johnson said. “He’s probably listened to some outside voices, and it was probably just a matter of time. He needs to trust their system. He needs to trust who he’s playing for.”
Weber had a different theory for Foster’s slump, saying he probably put too much pressure on himself after his strong freshman campaign. Perhaps being the face of the program, Weber said, was too much.
Only Foster knows for sure, and he is more interested about the future than the past.
“For me, it doesn’t really matter,” Foster said. “I just have to come and compete every night and play for my team and just put my individual stuff away.”