Player Previews: What will be the legacy of Will Foster?

It seems that every season there is one player that causes derision and debate among the Gonzaga fanbase. Most recently, that player has been Austin Daye. However, ever since he arrived on campus four years ago, Will Foster has been an intense topic of debate for Gonzaga fans. There is a large percentage of fans that feels that the "Foster experiment" has long run its course, and that the program would have been better served with having that extra scholarship open the past couple of years. On the other end of the spectrum, there is a group of people that feel that Will has never been given the proper opportunity by the coaching staff to excel, and that he can be a game changing type of force on any given night for the Zags. With there being so many question marks about how the post rotation will look, this season should give Will the chance to earn the consistent playing time to try and prove his supporters correct. However, if Will can't play his way into the rotation, then it appears that those who have long called for his spot on the team to be vacated would have been correct.

Perhaps the greatest example of the impact that Will can make was seen in the game at Tennessee last season. Although his stats were nothing to write home about (2 points and 4 rebounds), Foster made an immediate impact on the defensive end when he entered the game. Tennessee, which had aggressively attacked the rim the entire game, no longer entered the paint with the same reckless abandon. In only eight minutes of action, Foster was able to totally disrupt the attack that had made the Vols so successful, and helped give Gonzaga the momentum that saw the team comeback and win in OT. While he went on to have success in a couple different WCC games, Foster was never able to earn a regular spot in the rotation, and seemed to continue to fall out of favor with the coaching staff. 

 

The main factor that has stopped Foster from gaining a spot in the rotation is the fact that he is a gigantic liability on the offensive end. He has not been blessed with a good pair of hands, and it is nearly impossible for any of the guards to enter the ball to the post with confidence when he is in the game. Even when he is able to gather the ball in the paint, Will has not developed any semblance of a post game during his time at Gonzaga. His one move typically seems to be to turn and throw the ball over his shoulder, but because of his lack of touch, this isn't the type of move that helps to make Will an asset on the offensive end of the court. As we all saw with Larry Gurganious, the coaching staff will not give any player regular rotational minutes if they can't contribute on the offensive end of the floor.

Even if you are not a fan of Will as a basketball player, it's nearly impossible to deny the natural impact he makes on the defensive end when he is on the court. Will immediately can change any game plan and strategy that a team might have on the offensive side of the ball. However, I feel that this season, the impact that Will might have been able to make on the defensive end could be slightly nullified. I say this, because for the first time in years, Gonzaga has guards that are elite level defenders. Over the past couple of season, it would not be a surprise to see Pargo or some of the other guards get beat off the dribble. When this was the case, it was a huge advantage to have a force like Will waiting in the paint. This season, Coach Few will have athletic and quick defenders like Meech, GJ, and Arop on the perimieter, and these are the type of the guys that won't get beat off the dribble very often. If this proves the case, then it might not be necessary to sacrifice the offensive production for the strong defensive presence that Foster can provide.

One of the most interesting battles during this preseason will be between Sam Dower and Foster, as they should be battling for the 4th spot in the post rotation. I would argue that it's nearly set that Elias Harris and Rob Sacre will start at the PF and C positions, with Andy being the first big off the bench. With that said, I think it will come down to performance in practice and in early season games in order to determine who will be the second big body off the bench. In reality, it would be highly beneficial for Sam if he were to have the luxury to redshirt. Dower could use the year to build his body and continue to get comfortable in the Flex offense. However, some of the early reports that have surfaced suggest that Sam is developing very quickly, and it may be hard to keep him off the floor this year. If that is indeed the case, then I don't see Will being able to have the opportunity to play regular minutes this season.

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