Each week, we post a new excerpt from the latest edition of Bucknuts The Magazine.
BTM has evolved from humble beginnings as a 32-page magazine into its current
format as an 80-page magazine. It is published 10 times a year (monthly from
September through April, then once in the Spring and Summer).
The magazine retails for $4.95 on newsstands. We also sell annual
subscriptions to the magazine on the Internet for $39.95.
But the best deal going is our annual subscription bundle. For $99.95, you
get a full year of BTM as well as access to all of the premium content and
message boards on Bucknuts.com. Subscriptions to the web site, itself, are
priced at $9.95 per month. So, for roughly $100 you receive the value of almost
$160 between the web site and magazine.
In each issue of Bucknuts The Magazine, we have in-depth features on Ohio State football players, coaches and prospects. We also have analysis pieces on
the Buckeyes as well as their opponents, the Big Ten and college football world
in general. Plus, we have features on OSU athletes in a variety of sports,
including men's and women's basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and other
Order now -- Bucknuts the Magazine makes a fine Christmas gift! Click here for more on Bucknuts the Magazine.
Headline: Foster Hopes Hard Work Helps His Shooting Range
(From Dec. 2005)
By Dave Biddle
One of the pleasant surprises for Ohio State last season was the play of
junior college transfer Je’Kel Foster.
The 6-2 guard averaged 7.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He
also proved to be a defensive stopper and led the team with 43 steals.
Foster came off the bench for the first 20 games of the season, but was
inserted into the starting lineup for the final 12 contests.
This year, he could very well be in the starting lineup once again. But all
he is concerned about is winning.
“If I start, that’s great, but I don’t get caught up in that,” Foster
said. “I just want to help this team any way I can, whether that’s starting
or coming off the bench.”
Foster was a first-team All-American during his days in junior college. In
2002-03, at Howard Junior College in Big Spring, Texas, Foster averaged 15.3
points and 5.4 rebounds – both team highs.
In 2003-04, he followed his coach, Chris Jans, to Chipola Junior College in
Marianna, Fla. Foster averaged 17 points, 5.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds and was
named the Florida Junior College Player of the Year.
When it came time to choose a Division I college, Foster had several options.
“I considered a lot of schools,” he said. “Oklahoma, Illinois State,
LSU and a few others. I didn’t get a chance to take all my visits because we
were playing in the national junior college tournament. So, I only took two
visits, here and Illinois State.”
Jim O’Brien was still OSU’s coach when Foster decided to commit to the
Buckeyes. Although he didn’t get to play for him, he still has fond memories
“When I met with Coach O’Brien, everything he did was for the right
reasons,” Foster said. “He was a good guy, a positive guy. I didn’t get a
chance to play for him, but he seemed like a good guy. He kept in touch with my
family all the time and is just a good sport.”
Foster is originally from Natchez, Miss. He knew moving north to Columbus
would be a bit of a culture shock, but he was excited for the opportunity.
“I was definitely looking forward to coming here,” he said. “Until the
winter came and the snow and stuff came. I wasn’t used to the snow, so it took
me a while to get used to the snow. But now, it’s OK. I really like our campus
and the city of Columbus. Living in Ohio has been good. I definitely made the
Foster wasn’t sure what to expect as he began his first season at OSU in
2004-05. O’Brien was fired in the summer and replaced by Thad Matta. Not only
was Foster getting adjusted to a new city and new teammates, he also had a new
Then, a few games into the season, word came down that OSU would be banned
from postseason play (a self-imposed ban for recruiting violations under O’Brien).
However, the Buckeyes responded with a 20-12 season, including a win over
then-No.1 and undefeated Illinois. The Buckeyes probably would have been
included in the NCAA Tournament if they were eligible. And one of the key
players all year was Foster.
“Last year went pretty smooth,” Foster said. “We started off with a
pretty good record. As the Big Ten came in, it was pretty hard. It got kind of
tough, but most of all, the team played together and just stuck together.”
Foster was asked if the team was satisfied with the season, considering all
the obstacles it had to overcome.
“The only time you’re satisfied is when you don’t lose, to me,” he
said. “So, unfortunately we lost some games, but yeah, I think overall we were
satisfied with the season, winning 20 games and all. We felt we were good enough
to go to the NCAA Tournament, but that was taken away from us. But I think we
did a lot of good things last year and had a good season.”
The Big Ten was a big step up in competition from junior college ball for
Foster, but he made a smooth transition.
“I look at it like basketball is basketball, no matter who you are playing
with,” he said. “Of course, the Big Ten is a tough conference, but
basketball is pretty much basketball. The speed of the game was definitely
faster than junior college. Once I got the hang of the speed, everything began
to slow down.
“But as far as the physical nature of the Big Ten, I always play physical.
It’s a physical game. I like getting out there and playing hard, diving on the
floor, whatever it takes.”
Another difference was getting accustomed to playing in hostile environments
on the road.
“I didn’t see too much of that (in JUCO ball),” Foster said. “It’s
different. It was a first experience for me last year. Playing Indiana and
Michigan State and playing all the big schools, 20,000 fans don’t like you, it’s
Foster was solid last season, but he says he can play much better.
“I think I have more to offer,” he said. “I think I played pretty well
last year at times, but I feel like I can do a lot more for this team. I just
want to go and play my best ball this year and help us win games. All I’m
worried about is getting this team ready to play this year.”
There you go. There’s that unselfishness and leadership that everyone likes
Just how do his teammates feel about him? Listen to what senior center
Terence Dials has to say:
“Je’Kel has brought a lot of leadership, toughness and tenacity,” Dials
said. “I mean, the fans saw when he came in off the bench last year and he
gave us a boost. He was more or less our defensive stopper, along with Jamar Butler. But Je’Kel just does so many things for us. He’s able to hit the
three, he can play defense, he brings a winning attitude, a winning mentality,
and I think that’s what the team needed last year. We picked that up from him.”
Prior to this season, Foster was named a team captain – along with the
other three seniors (Dials, J.J. Sullinger and Matt Sylvester).
“Oh man, that’s a huge honor,” Foster said. “It’s not something
that I expected, but it’s one of those things that just makes you happy and
proud. We have four good senior leaders on this team and I’m happy to be one
of them. I will not let Coach Matta down. For him to name us captains like that
… that was just really good.”
Foster and his teammates worked hard during the off-season and tried to spend
as much time together as possible, on and off the court
“Me and all the other guys, we worked throughout the whole summer,”
Foster said. “So, I hope we got something good out of all the work we did. I’m
pretty sure we did. We lifted pretty hard and just did a lot of team things
outside of basketball. We just tried to stick together and just did everything
as a team. We wanted to get stronger in areas we were weak in, or just
communicating with each other. We lifted three or four times a week. We also
shot as a team and on our own.”
Yes, expectations are high as the Buckeyes enter the 2005-06 campaign. A
20-win season and NCAA Tournament appearance seem very much in the cards.
“Our goals are just to take one game at a time,” Foster said. “Whatever
happens, happens. Hopefully we can win games and get to the NCAA Tournament. It’s
every team’s goal to make it to that tournament. Hopefully we’ll get a
chance to play in it this year.”
And the Buckeyes have one of the best young coaches in America leading the
quest. Matta is building his reputation as a tireless recruiter, but don’t
underestimate his skills as a bench coach.
And beyond that, the players seem to love playing for him.
“Coach Matta is great,” Foster said. “I’ve never played for a coach
like Coach Matta. Coach Matta is a coach who chews people out when he has to,
but he always does it in a positive way. He’s a real positive guy. He never
talks behind your back. Whatever he has to say he says straightforward in front
of the team.”
Speaking on the team’s photo day, Matta talked about what he appreciates
“What Je’Kel has meant to this team has been invaluable from the
standpoint of leadership and competitiveness,” Matta said. “We wanted Je’Kel
to become more athletic and explosive and I think he’s done that.”
Foster has been called the best all-around player on the team. He was asked
to reveal his strengths and weaknesses on the court.
“I think I bring a good attitude to the team,” he said. “I play hard. I
try and lead by example, instead of just telling people what to do, I just try
and show them how to do it and just lead by example.
“One thing about basketball, no matter how good you get, there’s always
some areas you can improve in. I don’t think I have any big weaknesses, just
getting better at everything that I do.”
Foster enjoys having a big-time player like Dials on his side. The 6-9 senior
center could be in the running for Big Ten Player of the Year and Foster says
Dials makes everyone else on the team better.
“He makes the game so much easier because he draws so much attention,”
Foster said. “It opens the floor up when you’re playing with Terence because
all the guys that are guarding you, their coaches are telling them that they
have to worry about Terence. So, it opens up the floor for the guards.”
Foster is also looking forward to playing with junior guards Ron Lewis and
Sylvester Mayes. Lewis is a Bowling Green transfer and Mayes is a JUCO transfer
(Redlands Community College).
“They’re going to bring heart,” Foster said. “They play hard. It
should take our level up a little higher. They are going to make our program sky
high. Those guys, they bring good attitudes to the table. I’m looking for a
lot out of those guys.”
Pound-for-pound, inch-for-inch, you won’t find many rebounders better than
Foster. Most guards don’t take pride in rebounding, but the opposite is true
for Foster. He knows with OSU playing its “four out, one in” offense, the
guards need to hit the glass hard.
“Yeah, we understand that if we rebound, the more we rebound the ball, the
better we’ll be on offense,” he said. “If you get the rebound, you can go
on offense. So, we’ve got to finish each defensive possession with a rebound.
“You have to have technique to rebound. You have to box your man out and go
rebound. It’s different things, but you just have to go get the ball.
“I like to do whatever it takes. If my team needs me to rebound, that’s
what I’ll do. I just try and do whatever the team needs.”
Unfortunately, Foster’s family in Mississippi and New Orleans felt the
horrible affects of Hurricane Katrina late in the summer.
“Yes we did,” he said. “I was actually down there when the storm came.
We didn’t have electricity for about five days. There were strong winds. We
didn’t receive any water in the part that I’m from (about two hours from the
Gulf). But my mother lived in New Orleans, so our house got flooded out. She
still hasn’t been back. I’m pretty sure she won’t have anything left. It’s
been real frustrating for her. Hopefully I can get her to come out here so she
can watch a lot more of our games.”
Foster hopes to play professionally following his OSU career.
“Hopefully I’ll be playing somewhere after this season,” he said. “My
major is sociology. But I just want to play somewhere next year. If pro ball
doesn’t work out, I don’t know. I’ll probably own a business or something,