Nine Years Later, Golden Times for Adonal Foyle ’97

Atit Amin

Quick, identify the number of Colgate alums currently playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Times up. The correct answer is one, and his name is Adonal Foyle ’97. Not only will you see his retired jersey hanging from the rafters of Cotterell Court, but he also holds an NCAA record that might never be broken.

Foyle came to the United States at age 15, leaving behind his family in his native St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He was brought over under the care of W. Bradford Wiley Professor of Economics, Jay Mandle and his wife, Joan Mandle, Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology Emerita. Foyle attended Hamilton Central High School, where he was a key member in the team’s two State Championships. For his success, the 6’10” phenom was named a McDonald’s High School All-American, third-team USA Today All-American and third-team Parade All-American. With college on the horizon, Foyle had to choose between elite college programs far away from home or staying put in Hamilton.

“I’m often asked this question and I remain true to it to this day,” Foyle said. “Each person is always responsible for his or her decisions. There was and still has never been a second thought in my mind of choosing Colgate.

“At the end of the day you have to face your own decisions and the path that you have chosen. In choosing Colgate (and accepting the criticism), I felt I had the opportunity to participate in both academia and athletics at the highest level.”

Making his final college decision was only the first stage of a long struggle that awaited him. Although he was blessed with size and skill, he still worked to improve his game and take it to the next level. He knew that the only way this would be possible was through hard work and dedication.

“Like most of the things in my life, I believe in a dual approach,” Foyle said. “I was blessed with a lot of gifts physically and athletically. But, I also work hard at carving out my game honing my skills.”

He did not stop there, however, as his approach to the game required him to, “become a scholar of the sport, studying the legendary players and trying to find my niche on the court.”

At Colgate, Foyle received the best of both worlds: academics and Division I athletics. Donning the maroon and white, Foyle manned the middle for three very successful seasons. His accomplishments are unparalleled: in his first season, he was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year and became the first first-year to ever earn first-team all-Patriot League honors. his three years as a Raider, he became just the third player in NCAA history to total 1,700 points, 1,000 rebounds and 450 blocks. Most impressively, ranks first all-time in NCAA history in blocked shots with 492 – in three seasons. However, for the humble center, it was more than the impressive statistics that made his time at Colgate memorable.

“During my career at Colgate, one of the most rewarding things was having the complete college experience,” he said. “In addition to being surrounded by great people in an amazing setting, I was able to attend a school that was very academically sound with a strong Division I basketball program.

“One of the most challenging aspects was balancing the high demands between intense academic standards and playing on a high level of sport. It was not easy to commit so much to a sport while maintaining high grades and doing well in the classroom.”

Since declaring early for the draft and leaving for the sunny Bay Area, Colgate men’s basketball has obviously not been the same. Replacing a big man in college basketball is tough enough; however, but Foyle’s production took almost an entire team to replace.

“All schools face this problem,” Foyle said. “If you look at the numbers nationally, only a few institutions can maintain dominance for years on end. Like anything, winning is cyclical.”

Nevertheless, Foyle believes that the future prospects for Raider basketball look promising.

“I also feel that, with the increase of scholarships in the Patriot League, competition is getting tougher,” he said. “Having said that, I believe Colgate will see success in the near future. With the scholarship aspect, Colgate will appeal to many recruits as the perfect environment for basketball and academics.”

Leading the life of a student-athlete is no easy task, but that did not stop him from excelling on and off the court. As a testament to his work ethic, the Golden State Warriors selected Foyle with the eighth overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. The Warriors wasted little time in developing their new investment, as Foyle saw plenty of action during his first few years with his first professional team. Through some enduring experiences, Foyle learned that life becomes much more complicated after college.

“There really is no adjustment period into the NBA – no one, I don’t care what school or what background you are from, prepares you for life in the NBA,” Foyle said. “The biggest change right away is the finances: going from balancing a checkbook with $2.00 in the account to an instant six-figure salary causes more chagrin than glee. You have to understand where that money is going, where it should go and how it should be properly used. Along with the moral obligations to family members, friends and the support network, things can get very complex. All this hits you before you before you even step onto the court!”

Life with the Warriors has been a change of scenery in many ways for the former two-time Patriot League Player of the Year. For one, the Bay Area has more people living in one block of the city than all of rural Hamilton. Rightfully so, he enjoys the lack of blizzards and brutal winters.

“The weather is nice year round (no snow!) and there is plenty to do,” Foyle said. “The comparison lies in that of the sense of community. I now live in smaller city, which has a similar population to Hamilton. They both have a close-knit community sense and a great coffee shop.”

Foyle, who just completed his eighth season with the Warriors, has seen both winning and losing after enjoying years of success as a Raider. He has kept his spirits high, despite the woes faced by his Warrior team.

“Losing is extremely painful at any level in one’s life,” he said. “I tasted victory early on in my career winning a great deal in high school and college. I do feel I know how to win – and consider myself a winner – but I have been on the losing end of most NBA games. It’s tough, I hate to loose, and it’s a part of the game I simply cannot accept.”

Entering this season, there was a sense of hope in the Bay Area, especially after the team’s blazing end to the 2004 season following the midseason acquisition of Baron Davis. Unfortunately, injuries and unfulfilled expectations derailed the Warriors’ season.

“I think that is one of the most frustrating things about this season,” he said. “We all felt we were on the brink of a breakout season. I still believe, as do most of my teammates that we have the pieces to be a winning team now. It’s just on us, as professionals, to gel better and reach the level of success we know we can.”

Off the hardwood, Foyle has kept active through a variety of hobbies and life-long interests. One of his crowning achievements has been Democracy Matters, a prominent student-led organization on college campuses. Foyle initially took steps to create the organization during his Colgate years and fulfilled his goal to generate change in 2001.

“Democracy Matters is designed to give young people a voice within the issue of campaign finance reform,” Foyle said. “[It has] fundamentally changed my life in the way I see politics and this country. I feel our democracy is at great risk due to the great influence of wealth in campaigns. I think that all young people need to continue to lend their voices to this cause.”

While Foyle is only one man, his vision has spread to college campuses across the country. He encourages everyone to participate, because either alone or collectively, change can occur. In tackling defeatist attitudes, Foyle takes a lesson from the history books.

“I will merely point people such as Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela,” he said. “All of whom believed and proved that one man can make a difference. These are all people who fundamentally believed that the power of human spirit is really what it takes and felt passionately that what they felt was worth the fight.

“We all have people to look up to, we just have to show them a path and offer hope.”

Aside from his civic contributions to communities across the country, Foyle has also brushed up on some skills he developed as a student. As a professional basketball player with a history degree, Foyle is also an avid poet. He uses it as an effective outlet to express the many emotions bound to arise during the long NBA seasons – he characterizes his poetry as “therapy.” As far as searching for sources of inspiration, an 82-game schedule adequately fills that role.

“We are on the go basically every day from October 1[start of NBA Training Camp] to the middle of April with not too many days off,” Foyle said. “There is so much going on in those 200-plus days, but I occasionally will have time to sit and reflect.”

As spectators of a sport, the fans may often overlook some of the aspects of the game that are taken for granted. For example, professional basketball is a job that keeps players on the road for at least half of year. Being away from family for protracted periods of time is nothing new for Foyle and, if anything, it’s been a blessing in disguise.

“When I was young, I traveled a lot in the summers with my AAU Team,” he said. “While I was away, my Dad taught me how to carry my life with me on the road. This helped me immensely through college and now in the NBA. When I’m on a road trip or traveling, I carry anything I need to keep all aspects of my life going while I’m away.”

Leaving behind family and starting a new life has been a central theme of Foyle’s life. But that hasn’t stopped him from growing as a person.

“Be prepared to grow as an individual,” he said. “When I left Hamilton, I thought I knew a lot of things but in the real world, nut you have to adapt. College gives you a good book education, but in the real world lies challenges no one classroom can teach. You must be able to see and accept the world in its complexities. It will be scary, but realize that your college years have given you the groundwork and the fundamentals to survive in the real world.”

Coming from this community, a return to Hamilton is inevitable for Foyle. As far as an exact date, Foyle advises everyone to expect the unexpected.

“There’s always a chance you might see me at the Pub having wings or reading a book at the Colgate Library downtown,” he said. “Since I went to high school and college in Hamilton, it will always be home. So many great memories and friends will always be there and I look forward to making it back soon.”

Next time you head downtown, look out for Adonal Foyle, especially now that his offseason has finally begun.

I would like to thank Adonal Foyle and Professor Jay Mandle for their assistance and kindness in compiling this article.