Nova Notebook: Foye Looks Forward to 2005-06
April 25, 2005
The Nova Notebook, by Villanova director of media relations Mike Sheridan, appears each week beginning in the fall and continues through the basketball regular season. In April through August, there are monthly entries. In this special edition, we spend some time with Randy Foye, who today announced plans to skip June's National Basketball Association draft camp in Chicago and postpone his professional career until the conclusion of his senior year.
When Randy Foye returns to his hometown of Newark, N.J. anymore, the response is often immediate. Folks usually take notice of the neighborhood product now making a name for himself on the national stage.
"What," they frequently ask, "are you doing here? There is nothing here for you."
That sentiment is less a product of cruelty than it is one of reality.
"I'm from the heart of Newark," Foye says. "It's one of the toughest parts of the city. There are gangs and violence. People are always challenging you, even as a kid. You have to show them that you are tough enough to handle it."
No one who watched Foye excel in 2004-05 doubts the 6-3 junior's grit. Foye endured a concussion and broken bone in his left wrist to emerge as one of the outstanding performers in both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. He averaged 21.5 ppg in five games in that period, helping the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1988.
It was the kind of burst that invariably raises the specter of an early exit from college into the NBA draft pool. Soon after Foye scored 28 points in the Syracuse Regional semifinal loss to eventual NCAA champion North Carolina, speculation arose that Foye had played himself into consideration for the draft. Villanova head coach Jay Wright mentioned in several post-season interviews that Foye might explore early entry.
In the end, though, Foye chose not to pursue that path. Instead, he will concern himself with his final season of college basketball and the opportunity to collect his college degree on time next spring. There are several items that told him now is not the time to chase the NBA dream.
"It's really important to my family that I get that degree," he states. "I would be one of the first people in my family to have one. They haven't even talked about the NBA but they have talked about the degree.
"It's also important for me to try to win a national championship with these guys. We have been through a lot together and I've never been around a group that is as close as this one is. We have a great group here and we do everything together. These are people who are going to be your friends for life - why not spend one more year together doing what we love?"
Another factor was at work here too, one that would have seemed unlikely back in 2001. At that point, early in Foye's freshman year, Wright sometimes joked that the team bus better not pull over at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike lest the homesick rookie make a dash for Newark. Although Foye has retained his affection for Newark, he has also developed a soft spot for Villanova.
"It took me some time to adjust to Villanova," says Foye. "It's very different from what I knew growing up. But I've grown to love it. Basically, this place turned me into a man."
To those who scour draft web sites, Foye's decision is a practical matter. Other names presently have more cache than his and it is understood that he would have to have played well in Chicago to have been considered for the first round and the guaranteed contract that accompanies it.
Yet none of those offering these assessments have ever viewed life from underneath Foye's favorite New York Yankees baseball cap. Not only did Foye come of age in a rugged part of a tough city, he did so largely without the benefit of his birth parents. Foye's father died in a motorcycle accident when he was two and his mother disappeared from his life at age six.
Viewed against this backdrop, Foye's decision appears all the more remarkable. But he doesn't see it that way.
"I've been broke for 21 years," he laughs. "What's another year? Besides, it all goes so fast. The year will be over before you know it."
Of course, those who have known Foye or followed his career aren't at all surprised by his desire to complete what he has started. As a Newark star, Foye watched as several of his most talented East Side High School teammates were declared ineligible. With an assortment of transfer possibilities in front of him, Foye chose instead to stick with East Side and ultimately led that team to a state championship.
This time, the prospect of an early exit arrived quickly. Prior to mid-February, Foye's value was known mostly to his teammates. His scoring was often overshadowed by the explosiveness of Allan Ray or the versatility of Curtis Sumpter. His excellence on the defensive end tended to be overlooked as well.
But when the games counted most, Foye took his play to another level. It began with a sensational 23 point effort in a Feb. 23 win over No. 3 Boston College in the Pavilion. He averaged 22.5 ppg in two games in the Big East Tournament, earning all-tourney plaudits. And he contributed a 20 ppg average in the NCAA Tournament, including the astonishing 28-point effort when Villanova pushed North Carolina to the limit without an injured Sumpter.
"It really was a confidence boost," says Foye of that period. "I think I was able to play fearlessly, where earlier in my career I was worried about making mistakes. Now, if I make a mistake, I learn from it and go on. I started to get the feeling that, no matter who I played against, no guard could contain me. I think you need to have that attitude to really have a lot of success."
Soon after the chartered bus returned from Syracuse, Foye sensed that something had changed.
"I always knew I would have a shot at the NBA because of my size and athleticism," stated Foye. "It's something Coach Wright has talked to me about. But it wasn't something I really thought a lot about until this season ended.
"After we got back from Syracuse, it seemed like there was a buzz about how I had played. Everybody was coming up to me on campus asking if I was going to leave."
The possibility was intriguing. Foye is a pro sports fan and his desire for a professional career is real. He spoke with Wright and assistant coach Ed Pinckney, a 12 year NBA veteran, at length.
"The biggest thing Coach Wright said was that this was my decision," recalls Foye. "He told me that he would love to have me back but that he would always be behind me, whatever I wanted to do."
When he studied the factors, the junior kept coming back to this: he wanted to be at Villanova, with this coach and these teammates for one more go-round. And so he will be.
"One of the things I thought about was how we were treated by the Villanova fans," Foye stated. "We were surrounded by so many people who were rooting for us - students, alumni, fans. When you looked up in the crowds in Nashville and Syracuse, there were so many of them. There were times when I looked up and thought `all these people are here for us?'
"Look, let's be honest - our first two years here, we sucked. We were trying but it didn't work out the way any of us wanted. People supported us, though, and it was great that we were able to get to the Sweet 16 for them. It's been terrific helping to restore Villanova Basketball to what it once was.
"Newark is my home. Villanova is my home away from home."
Foye's impact extends to both communities.
"When I go home now," says Foye, "kids from the neighborhood come up to me all the time. They have seen me play on TV and you don't usually see people who are on TV where I'm from. They wonder what I'm doing there.
"I tell them Newark is my home. Even though you may not have much, you can still go out and be successful. That's what I'm trying to do."
He'll do it at Villanova for one more year.