I think I've gone back and forth on whether Devin Foster's 2014-15 season was good or bad, like, 600 times. Some people believed that the junior college transfer would step in and act as a gap between the departing Tim Frazier and the incoming Shep Garner.
Instead, Garner won the team's starting point guard spot, and Foster kind of vanished. He played in two games during Penn State's non-conference slate, and didn't look like he was going to do much of anything before he blew up against Michigan State in January (it's not at all off-base to think that he only got time because of John Johnson's season-ending suspension, but give Foster credit, he took advantage of the opportunity). Then, after a nice stretch of seven games during the middle of the season, the former second-team JuCo All-American lost out on more playing time, and only occasionally saw the court towards the end of the season.
But give Foster credit: he certainly understood his limitations as a basketball player – probably more so than anyone else on Penn State's roster last season – and never did anything blatantly bad. That isn't to say that he was spectacular, but he was...smart. Yeah, that's the word. Devin Foster is a smart basketball player, and that alone should help him earn more playing time in 2015-16.
Hey, here's the least surprising thing in the world: Foster played more during the Big Ten slate. I know, this is earth-shattering stuff. One thing we'll get to in the next section is that Foster was amazing at picking his spots (and hitting silly shots like this), and his shooting numbers illustrate that. He was remarkably efficient from the field, as evidenced by his eFG% of 62.5 percent during conference play, he hit a ton of twos (mostly by nature of him waiting until he had layups to put up shots) and went 2-for-5 from three. Sure, it didn't translate to him scoring a ton of points, and you'd like to have seen him be a little more involved in the offense as a whole, but when he did stuff, Devin Foster was really good.
I just had some water in my mouth but I spit it out when I saw how good Foster was at converting from near the basket. Of course, he wasn't exactly taking shots down there at the rate that Shaq did during his prime, but guards shouldn't be that successful at converting shots from right near the rim. But still...
If he could somehow keep up that percentage while shooting way more shots from close (which is probably impossible, but indulge me), Foster could become a monster. He does need to get more comfortable with his jump shot, though.
Going back to what I said above, Foster may have picked his spots better than anyone else on Penn State's roster in 2014-15. If every basketball player had Foster's decision-making, the world would be a much better place. Seriously, go back and watch some Nittany Lions games from this season, and watch for when Foster would get the ball while things were getting a little out of control, dribble out to the top of the key and let things settle down. This is the kind of savvy that you expect out of a veteran guard, not a JuCo transfer who didn't get consistent playing time. Also, his aforementioned penchant for scoring at the rim was awesome for a guard, I would just like to see more of it (hold this thought for, well, seven seconds). One last thing: he was a pretty good rebounder for a guard, as he was Penn State's top backcourt in both offensive (6.7%) and defensive (11.1%) rebounding percentage.
I do suppose that it's a bit disappointing that he was expected to compete for the starting point guard spot and played in 12 total minutes in two non-conference games, and needed someone to get suspended for him to get consistent playing time. I would like to suggest that this didn't mean Pat Chambers thought Foster was a bad player, per se, but there was a pretty established pecking order (Shep/Flipp/D.J. Newbill at the 1, those three and Geno Thorpe at the 2) and it was just hard for a guy who isn't exactly dynamic to break into it. It also didn't help that he struggled on defense occasionally. As for offensive stuff, I really wish Foster was more aggressive, as he attempted 33 shots all year and only had 11 assists in 243 minutes. Hopefully with an expanded role next year he can build on his nice little 2014-15.
vs. Michigan State - 22 minutes, 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 2-2 shooting, 2-2 free throw shooting
Penn State ended up losing by six on the road against a team that, to the surprise of most people, ended up making the Final Four. A lot of credit for this goes to the play of Foster, who provided a huge spark off of the bench in a game where both Garner and Thorpe had some issues with fouls. He also had that absurd layup from above. It was a fun game, is what I'm getting at.
Foster is going to benefit from the graduation of Newbill, because there's going to be a fair amount of playing time that is freed up since the All-Big Ten selection was essentially Penn State's backup point guard. I'd be really surprised if Foster doesn't directly benefit from this and maybe earn a spot as the first or second guy off of the bench for Chambers. Garner is still a young point guard, so having someone like Foster who doesn't possess Garner's score-first mentality and prefers running an offense like a conventional 1 could be a major asset. Plus the Nittany Lions frequently have multiple players on the court who can handle the ball, so even a few Garner-Foster-three other dudes lineups isn't the craziest idea in the world.
The issue for Foster could come with the logjam at the shooting guard and small forward spots, since he logged most of his minutes in 2014-15 in those roles. Where does he fit in when there needs to be minutes for Thorpe, Payton Banks, Josh Reaves, Isaiah Washington and (potentially) Davis Zemgulis?
Still, assuming Garner plays about 32 minutes a game (which builds on last year when he averaged a little less than 29), there's no reason to think that we won't see a fair amount of Foster in a backup point guard role. Anything else would be a really nice bonus.
Final Grade: C+
Foster's season was disappointing in that he didn't have that big of a role despite some hype before the season as a potential starting point guard, as he only appeared in 19 games in 2014-15 with no starts. It was a success in that he played relatively well when he was given opportunities, and he had several really nice performances. Wanna just say a C+? That cool with everyone? Ok, nice, Devin Foster gets a C+.