Exposure to others’ struggle has lasting impact on Towson’s Walter Foster

SATURDAY ON ASN: Towson at Elon, 6 p.m. ET (click logo for local listings)

Towson men’s basketball coach Pat Skerry is proud of how Walter Foster has grown during his time with the Tigers.

It is not just that the junior forward has become a formidable defensive presence, which he certainly has. Skerry also sees a young man who demonstrates increased maturation when it comes to keeping a lid on his feelings on the court while making strides in his pursuits off it.

“I think Walt is so much more in control of his emotions,” said Skerry, in his fifth season at Towson. “He just understands the game better, and his academics are better. That is the fun part about coaching, seeing guys grow and develop.”

Foster’s mother, Agetsha, certainly has had a hand in her only son’s — Foster has two sisters — development. Growing up in Atlanta he could see how his father, also named Walter, struggled with substance abuse.

Instead of shielding her son from the realities associated with addiction, Agetsha made it a point to make sure he developed an education and appreciation for what the elder Walter, and many others, deal with. That meant being part of a captive audience as men and women shared their struggles at a local Salvation Army.

“My father, unfortunately, (struggled with substance abuse) when I was growing up,” said Foster. “My mother sometimes made me sit in on meetings and listen to what people had to say and why some of them went toward drugs, left their families and stuff like that.”

Foster said he has a nice relationship with his father, currently living with Walter’s grandfather, and visits him when he is back in Atlanta.

It has been through organizations such as the Salvation Army and Special Olympics that Foster has been able to help the less fortunate. He spent part of his Christmas break distributing gifts to underprivileged children, which was an especially gratifying experience.

“It is a really nice feeling helping people out,” he said. “It makes me feel very good to do something like that for kids and I know how much of an impact it can have on them.”

Foster has had quite an impact on the court this season. Averaging about 23 minutes per game the Tigers’ sixth man headed into Thursday’s game at College of Charleston registering 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while pacing the CAA in blocked shots with 1.8.

The 6-8, 235-pound Foster has been a shot-blocking machine of late. He established a career high with seven blocks against visiting Drexel on Jan. 16, the third-most in team history. That effort eclipsed his previous career high of five, which he accomplished twice including the previous game at Delaware.

“My teammates are great at setting up other players for me to get a block on the weak side,” said Foster, who averaged 0.9 blocks last season. “I like defense more than offense. I would rather block a shot than get a bucket because it gives my team extra energy.”

Between his defensive prowess and upbeat demeanor Foster is creating plenty of positive energy for Towson. It has not always been that way, however. He often easily got upset at his teammates or otherwise displayed his emotions when things were not going well.

“I would say maturity is the biggest thing,” he said when asked about the difference from a year ago. “Last year I used to get mad at my teammates and I did not know how to talk to them when I was angry. This year I feel like I am better at talking to them about things that I think they should be doing on the court.”

That change for the better plays into his experience in the classroom. A communications major, Foster has learned not only to better present himself when speaking to others, whether it is his fellow Tigers or anybody else, but also how non-verbal communication can sometimes be deafening.

“My classes are very interesting and I have learned a lot,” said the aspiring real estate agent. “Even if it is non-verbal communication you have to be able to read people and get involved with people, so I have been working on that. On the basketball court I try to be a leader as far as showing people what to do. I feel that I still need to work at talking to others and making sure that everybody is doing what they are supposed to do.”

On and off the court Foster seems to have developed a sense with what he is supposed to do.

“He has really grown up a lot since he has been here and I am proud of him for that,” said Skerry.

Above:  Towson’s Walter Foster has been a shot-blocking machine and the Tigers feed off his positive energy. (Courtesy Towson Sports Information)
Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.