Faith, adversity, family, respect, dedication, hard work.
Those are just a few adjectives used to describe former University of Vanderbilt standout, and current member of the Kepez Belediyesi Antalya team in Turkey, Shan Foster. For the first six years of his life, Shan grew up with his grandparents who were the first to instill the Christian faith that lies within Shan today. On a daily basis his grandparents would teach him about hard work and God, and each night they would kick back, relax and watch TV – mainly the news, the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bulls. That is where Shan’s love of basketball first came into play.
Shan would mimic each and every player he saw step onto the court just outside of his grandparent’s home. He said he would use any round object he could find and just shoot it into the same spot in the bush every day. “I would do this so much that a basket formed in the center of the bush. Of course, my grandmother was displeased and urged my grandfather to build me a basketball goal. He did.”
Tamara Montgomery’s claim to fame was giving Shan his completive edge; she is Shan’s aunt and she would beat him every game they played early on in his life. While this was going on at his grandparent’s home, Shan’s mother was going to school at Alcorn State University. But before she finished school, she was married to Michael Harris and the family moved to Jackson, Mississippi. Years had passed and Shan’s family moved yet again, after his mother gave birth to his sister. Now in Metairie, Louisiana, Mr. Harris realized Shan’s love for the game. “He pushed me to become the best; sometimes too hard.”
Shan was very tall for his age and his family moved once again, this time to Kenner, Louisiana. In his new town Shan said he played on his first “real” team. “From there, I would gain some attention from local newspapers. Sports had become my outlet from a very strict home.” Shan juggled his time between three sports: football, baseball and basketball. He liked basketball the most, and obviously chose to pursue that more than the other two sports. Shan struggled shortly after pursuing his basketball dream; in middle school his mother divorced Michael Harris and his mother was juggling 2-3 jobs at a time to raise three children.
In high school, his mother was working so much that many times Shan got rides to the games with friends’ parents, coaches, other family members, and even fans. Basically, whatever it took to get to the game that day. “If it was not for those willing people, I would not have been able to play. Nevertheless, I would emerge into an average player going into my sophomore year in high school. This is when God took my dream and began to make it a reality.”
Many people were in and out of Shan’s life, but people like Xavier Head Coach Danton Jackson, as well as Glenn Dyer, Kim Lewis, and a referee that he still does not know, helped him become a collegiate prospect. Shan’s father John Brown always told him, “to respect and be respected by referees,” which he did and it helped him greatly. This ref would refer Shan to the New Orleans Jazz, a traveling team that was sponsored by Adidas. Danton Jackson was the team’s coach and he is responsible for teaching Shan to become a guard. Beforehand, for six years, Shan was the tallest kid on the team and now he was playing with guys like 6’9” Brandon Bass, 6’8” Glenn Davis, and 6’7” Tasmin Mitchell, so clearly playing PF/C wasn’t an option. Following that season, Shan would be invited to the ABCD camp, an exclusive basketball camp for some of the nation’s top players.
Shan soon realized what it meant to be “good” at basketball. He later goes on to say, “this (ABCD camp) opened my eyes to what it takes to be considered good; and I was a long way away. From that summer on, I dedicated myself to hard work. Being able to see other players, my age and younger, playing at such a high level motivated me beyond imagine. I became the poster boy for hard work paying off.” That quote is something anyone can live by whether they are working hard in sports or just life in general.
Transitioning from a big man to a guard wasn’t easy. “Learning to play guard was like learning to play basketball all over again. I was so far behind, but I was determined to catch up with all of those guards in my class.” By the middle of Shan’s senior season in high school, he was ranked as the 9th best guard/forward in the country. Shan was always his own hardest critic, he said, “So being ranked wasn’t good enough for me because there were players getting drafted and I was going to school.” He used that as motivation to make himself better each year and he said he did just that.
“The accolades and rewards I received were all a credit to the favor of God and my hard work. I’ve always believed that when I was sleeping, someone somewhere was getting better.” Shan is still working harder than ever today as a European Professional Basketball Player. Shan is always trying to work harder than the person next to him. As we speak, Shan is still chasing his dreams to one day make it in the NBA and the toughest part for him right now is he can envision his hard work paying off, but he still can’t reach out and touch that dream. Not yet at least.
“So many players spend their summers going through summer leagues and workouts reaching for something they’re not sure if they’ll ever touch. I believe with all my heart that I’ll be able to reach up and grab it very soon. My overseas experience has taught me a lot. And although I’m grateful for the opportunity, I’m not satisfied.”
Shan Foster is faith, adversity, family, respect, dedication, hard work.
This article was written in conjunction with an interview with Shan Foster.