CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Who knew Tobacco Road was actually called High Road?
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber and Creighton senior guard Marcus Foster chose to take that path in Thursday’s news conference prior to the first-round matchup between Weber’s Wildcats and Foster’s Blue Jays.
Foster played for Weber at K-State in 2013-14 and 2014-15 before being kicked off the team for multiple violations of team rules. During his freshman season, Foster scored 15.5 points per game to lead the Wildcats. But his sophomore year was filled with turmoil and he dropped to 12.5 points before his eventual departure.
“It was kind of different, you know,” Foster said when asked about the significance of playing his former team. “I was just happy for our name to be called.
“But I wasn’t expecting to play them. I knew coming in there (would be) a lot of media attention. That’s the one thing I wanted to stay away from because I’m locked into this game. This could be my last game, and I have to put everything on the line.”
Foster said he is a different person than he was at K-State, and he’s grateful for what he learned.
“It made me learn,” he said. “The things I went through, I had to grow up and mature. Now I’m the man I wanted to become. I had a little learning curve to go through. Everybody has to go through things, but you face adversity. You get over it and move on.”
Weber was equally philosophical.
“I’m just happy for him,” Foster’s former coach said. “If he’s successful and he’s doing things the right way, that’s great. And if I’m part of that, that’s even better.”
Foster leads Creighton with 20.3 points per game, but he, his former coach and especially his current coach all agree that the player — and the man — he is today would not have been possible had he not spent two years in Manhattan.
“You know, it wasn’t probably his top choice of who he would like to play,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said about the matchup with the Wildcats. “Because we’re playing K-State, it gave us an opportunity this week to have a lot of conversations about it.
“We all make mistakes when we’re 18 or 19 years old. To his credit, he’s made the changes in his life to be the person that he is today. That may or may not have happened had he not made those mistakes.
“While I’m very proud of what the stat sheet says about Marcus Foster this year, that doesn’t hold a candle to how proud I am of who he’s become off the court. He is a very different person than the one I first met when he left Kansas State.”
Weber wasn’t able to enjoy the full four years he expected when he first signed Foster out of high school, but he’s proud of the role he had in the development of the young man.
“I’ve said it over and over. It’s my job to help (the kids). There’s more than just basketball. There’s school, basketball and there’s also life and doing things right. If he’s making progress in all those things, and I had something to do with it, that’s great.”
Tonight, after the game, Weber will have a chance to say that to Foster face-to-face.