For those of you who missed Part 1 of NBAtoday.net’s interview with former Vanderbilt standout Shan Foster, you can check out Shan’s background story here. The following is an exclusive Q&A session with Shan:
NBAtoday: Can you compare the transition from playing basketball in High School to College? Was the transition from going to HS in Louisiana to playing college ball in Tennessee tough on you and your family?
Shan Foster: It was very tough for me. The pressure of playing in the SEC cannot be simulated in HS. Plus, I was still learning how to be a guard. That along with the pressure of playing 8 hours away from home was difficult. However, the city of Nashville, and ultimately the state of Tennessee, made me feel quite at home. From the fans to parents of young children, Nashville became a second home for me.
I felt so connected to those people. For 4 years I was able to make personal relationships with so many people. Fans, children, parents, teachers, administrators, staff, bishop, coaches and their children, other players, business owners. You name them and I knew them personally; and they knew me. It was important to me that those people knew me and not know of me. I cared for them so much that the night before senior night I prayed that God enable me to play in a way that would show them my appreciation and love. That prayer was granted.
NBAtoday: Go back and express your emotions, or how you remember them, when you went unconscious against Mississippi State on senior night, draining 9 threes in a row in route to a career high 42 points! Was this the best moment of your basketball career?
SF: Senior night was an amazing and humbling experience. God showed me his power in an extraordinary way. As I look back, I strongly remember two important things that I told myself during the second half of the game: stay focused and we can’t lose. A lot of times when you find yourself in a situation where something extraordinary is being done to you or you’re doing something unbelievable, men have a tendency to boast. This is what I guarded against that entire year.
Many times I would refer to myself as humble and hungry. As the horn sounded and we had won the game, I could not contain my emotions. Tears streamed my eyes as I ran to my family that were courtside jumping, crying, and praising God. I remember my grandmother whispering into my ear “you did it son!” I would respond “no mama, He did it!” Her knees buckled with overwhelming joy! I was most excited and happy that my prayers were granted. I could not have scripted my farewell game any better.
The sold out crowd all stayed to applaud for the senior ceremony. This was a surprise to everyone because people normally would leave and it was also 11pm on a weekday – I’m sure most of them had to work the next day. As they called my name for the last time, I cried as hard as a man could cry. Many fans cried with me and my family as well.
NBAtoday: How exciting was it to be a part of turning the basketball program around at Vanderbilt to the point of being respectable, ranked in the polls, and even making the NCAA tournament?
SF: It was very exciting. This was a goal of mine even through my recruitment. I could not imagine the extent to which God would bless me and the Vanderbilt family, but I wanted to make a difference. It was possibly the best four years of my life.
NBAtoday: You graduated Vandy with a degree in Human and Organizational Development, so after your ball career, do you have any specific plans in using this degree?
SF: I’m sure I’ll use it to do something – but I haven’t planned for my career to end just yet.
NBAtoday: What was it like being honored as the SEC Player of the Year? Did you make that a goal of yours before your senior season?
SF: That was a goal of mine for my senior season. Derrick Byars, my friend, was the reigning POY, so it meant a lot to me to follow his footsteps.
NBAtoday: After your senior year, you were drafted 51st overall by the Dallas Mavericks. You earned your degree and got drafted into the NBA in the same year, was it overwhelming?
SF: It was very overwhelming. To accomplish a dream is something that does not happen to everyone, and is a very delicate situation. Words cannot express the way I felt. I can say that I was most happy for my family. They had sacrificed so much throughout my life, and especially in college. The unwavering support was needed and always there.
NBAtoday: What was the transition from college to the NBA like for you? What was the toughest part?
SF: It was very eye opening, not only the necessary work ethic, but also to how hard it is to make a team. It was my belief that I was a hard worker, but being a professional adds unsimulated intensity to workouts and games. Attention to detail is incredibly important as well.
NBAtoday: To continue your career, you decided to go play in Italy in 2008. What was the experience of deciding to play overseas like? Were you recruited to play there by a team, an agent, a former teammate?
SF: My experience in Italy was very valuable. It gave me great toughness and professional attitude towards the game. My agent at the time, found the job for me, and I accepted.
NBAtoday: After one season in Italy, you moved on to play in Turkey. What is that like? Do you enjoy living in Turkey?
SF: The opportunity to play with a best friend and former teammate arose this past summer and I gladly accepted. Alex Gordon was a best man in my wedding this summer as well and we lightly joked about playing together again, didn’t think it to be possible. But, it happened.
It is great playing with Alex again. We have a chemistry that brings out the best in one another. Pushing each other to reach our potential and be the best we can be. It also gives us a support system while thousands of miles from home.
NBAtoday: What do you think of the scheduling in Europe, playing only once a week or so?
SF: It gives the coaches more practice time, so I’m sure they’re appreciative of that. The hard part is when you lose and have to wait a week play again. In terms of travel, you obviously spend more time in your home location, which means more rest. However, we do have to practice 2 times a day.
NBAtoday: How often do you come back to the states? Is your ultimate basketball goal to try and make it in the NBA again or are you content with staying overseas?
SF: My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA. Fortunately, the Dallas Mavericks own my rights, so I’ll be there this summer working hard to make that team. The Mavericks are a great organization and have brilliant coaches with great knowledge of the game. It would be nice to learn under them, as well as the elite players in Dallas.
NBAtoday: You’re 6’6″, which is pretty big for a SG, but you have an excellent shooting touch and great range. Do you prefer banging down low as a small forward or staying outside and shooting jumpers?
SF: I’ve been known for shooting jumpers and that is what I do most, but I do enjoy making plays in the paint as well.
NBAtoday: NBA Draft Song is a solid song in which you play piano and sing. Did your teammates bust your chops after seeing that (once you were drafted)? Is there a music career in the waiting for you Shan?
SF: Yes, everyone threw punches at that one. But hey, it got me on Jim Rome. I can’t complain about that. I love music. I taught myself to play the piano and I am currently picking up the guitar. So we’ll see how that goes.
NBAtoday: Can you tell us about how the Shan Foster Foundation was created how much of a role you play in it today? Do you plan to pursue basketball until you are of the age of retirement or do you plan to work with people full-time in the near future to expand your foundation?
SF: Before the draft I said to my family that I would like to start a foundation to give back to my community. The idea was birth through my own childhood. Seeing the struggle that my mother endured as a single parent and the pressures of a child in that environment urged me to do something to help others in the same situation.
A lot of times children are told not to discuss what happens in their household, but that’s why the curse is never exposed. Our children are under this spirit of complacency, ignorance, depression, disobedience, and conformity. This is mainly because they hold things inside as a result of their situation. Most times they don’t know that a better life exists or that they could ever achieve greatness. It would take a book for me to really explain my thoughts on this sensitive subject. As you can see, I have a deep passion for those children and will work to lend a helping hand and to be an outlet for our youth.
We would like to thank Shan for his time and enthusiasm with this interview. For more information on the Shan Foster Foundation, click here. Good luck in achieving your goals Shan, the hard work you put in will ultimately be rewarded.