Former Southern Methodist Mustangs guard Jarrey Foster suffered injury setbacks in college that helped make him an even stronger person.
During his healthy season as a sophomore starter, he averaged 1.22 points per possession from his jump shots in the half-court sets. That ranked in the 95th percentile among all players in the NCAA, per Synergy Sports. Foster is very capable when spotting up and showed flashes of excellence as the ballhandler in a pick-and-roll offense and shot very well when coming off screens.
He spoke with HoopsHype about his road to the NBA after his four years at SMU.
What would you say your main focus has been as you’ve been preparing for the 2019 NBA draft?
Jarrey Foster: I’ve been maintaining my health. But on the court, I’m being a knockdown shooter. I have the tools and the mechanics to be a really, really great shooter so I’m always trying to perfect it going into the future. It hasn’t been that much of a transition from the college line to the NBA distance. I feel like I have the strength to get it up there. I’m also trying to improve as a ballhandler. I have played all around the floor during my basketball career. I still have room to improve there.
What were some of your biggest takeaways playing for a longtime NBA head coach like Larry Brown at Southern Methodist?
JF: I’m so proud to have played at some of the levels I didn’t think I would get to, playing for coach Larry Brown at a high-level D1. He helped teach me how to play the game the right way. If you have a shot, take it. If you do not, swing it to the next man. Play hard on defense. Have that energy and the drive to get better. He taught me a lot of my defensive tenacity. That was the culture at SMU. I’ll have that forever.
You’ve played alongside so many NBA players while in college, too. Are you still in touch with them?
JF: I’ve played alongside Sterling Brown, Shake Milton, Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye and I’m in touch with all of them. The person I talk to the most is Shake, he was my roommate for three years in college. We talk on the phone every day and all of us have a group message where we share daily devotionals. All of them have their own way of helping me. They’re all great guys who have given me advice about becoming and staying a pro. They keep me focused on the task at hand and what’s to come in the future. They all believe in me. I also talk to my former teammate Sedrick Barefield who transferred and that’s my guy. I am so happy to see him persevere and be the player he was in college. He works so hard and has the right mind and he has a bright future. It’s a big family.
What is the role and fit you can have for an NBA team on their roster?
JF: As a rookie, I definitely see myself as a 3-and-D wing who can knock down his shot consistently and guard and hold my own. I’m not going to slow the offense down. I can make other guys around me better. I can screen and help the other guys with their shots. I can cut, get behind people and drive downhill and make a play for someone else. I can do that from the start and get better and better after that.
How would you rate yourself as a two-way guard with both offensive and defensive skills?
JF: I feel like that is my strength. On offense, I’m a downhill driver and I can get to the cut strong. I can shoot the three. I’m getting better at shooting off of the dribble. I can make a play for someone else. I have good vision and also a high IQ. The defensive end is one of my good characteristics because I am so willing to take charges and do all of the small things others aren’t willing to do. I’m also a great one-on-one defender and I take it seriously every time I have someone in front of me. I can guard 2, 3 and 4 with no problem. I can switch onto any position on the floor. I guarded Deandre Ayton my junior year and we ended up winning that game. That proved to me that I can battle down there. I can box out bigs and push around a little bit.
What was the confidence builder like for your coach to trust you, as a 6-foot-6 defender, to match up against the 7-foot-1 projected No. 1 overall pick?
JF: Before the game, we knew he was going to be a huge assignment for us against Arizona. As an upperclassman, I knew it was possible. We had a big on our team but he was a younger guy. With my defensive IQ, I knew how to guard him the best way possible for us to win the game. So when my coach and I looked at each other eye-to-eye, we both knew I was going to be the one to guard him. I take those things personally. My coach knew that I had the defensive tenacity, which really helped me play better. I’m really glad it happened because it proved I can hold my own against the better bigs.
What were some of the traits you learned as a leader while playing at SMU?
JF: That’s one of the main characteristics that I have. I’m always willing to be the first guy up and not afraid to make mistakes. I try to do the right thing on each play. I want to make people around me better and it passes down the line more than you know. That’s just who I am and I feel like I have more to learn but I definitely want to be that guy who leads again but that’s just my nature.
I know you won the S.P.I.R.I.T. Award at Southern Methodist. What did it mean for you to take that home?
JF: It’s funny you bring that up because at the ceremony there was actually a perseverance award and I didn’t even get nominated for it. So I thought that I wasn’t going to get anything. You don’t really know what people see that you are doing but I always made sure to help others and encouraging them. I tried to make sure everyone felt the same love. That meant the world to me, I want to always be a good person to others.
What are some of the biggest things that NBA teams are learning about you as a person during team meetings?
JF: I want them to know that I’m a high-character guy and I’m willing to learn and I always play hard. I have a culture of being great around me. It’s always about growth. Going through these injuries, I have learned so much about myself. I want them to know how strong I am, mentally, overcoming my injuries and there is not too much that is going to knock me down. I’m going to get back no matter what it is.
What did you learn about yourself while recovering from your injuries?
JF: I learned how far I can push myself. You can find yourself at a low point but you can look back and see how you got out of that. We always think we can do it all by ourselves but I found myself asking for help and putting my pride aside helped my mental strength, which helped me to get better. If it’s asking questions or requesting certain resources, my mental strength is really up there because I’ve been knocked down so many times and I’m right back here where I want to be. Not being on the floor when your team is there can really get to you. But being grateful for what you have, man, that’s just really what it is.
Where are you at right now with your health status and your injuries?
JF: I’m definitely doing great, man. After the season ended, I took off the brace. I haven’t worn it since. I’m just making sure my muscles are really strong. It’s all about finding the confidence and I feel like I’ve found that back in my life. I’m one hundred percent. I’m looking for muscle memory and the endurance and getting in shape. That’s an uphill grind that is going to happen day-to-day. It’s only going to get better.
What else do you do off the court when you’re not playing basketball?
JF: I’ve been writing in my journal a lot. Writing is one of my big things. Anything I think of while I’m journaling, I’ll write it down. That’s been the best. I’ll look back to November and I’ll see some of the things I was thinking about and bring myself back to the present and make certain decisions I want to make now. I’m putting my mind to paper. I’ve also been reading a lot. And meditating and yoga. I definitely use the Headspace app for meditation. My body goes through so much stress and my mind does too. So that really helps me calm down and live in the moment. I’ll close the windows and not think about anything else besides my breathing. I’ve also tried kundalini mixed with yoga. I’ve been researching the body, too. I graduated with a degree in sports performance. The power that I have within yourself when I believe in myself, working as hard as I can, helps me so much. As long as I do the best things possible and treat people the right way, I’m happy.