Jim Foster was a Junior College transfer student at UConn and was a great
guard. He’s a member of the UConn Basketball All Century Ballot. I spoke to Jim in
November of 2003 about his basketball career, which included playing in
the National Basketball Association and about his professional
started playing sports in his childhood neighborhood of Hoboken, New
Jersey. Frank Sinatra had also lived there so it was known as Frank
Sinatra’s block. Jim played basketball and football in high school and had
won awards for both, but going into his senior year of high school it was
questionable which sport he was better at and which sport he would play in
college. As a senior, during football season he broke his collarbone the
first game of the season causing him limited action for the rest of the
season. He was left to concentrate on basketball because the injury in
football left him without any college football scholarship offers.
well and had a few colleges interested in him for a basketball scholarship
but had no offers. When he graduated from high school in 1970, the Vietnam
War was going on and he thought he’d be going to war.
One day in
August, after he graduated from high school, Jim was playing basketball in
the neighborhood. A coach at a prep school in Worcester, MA, John
Wendelkyn, saw him and asked Jim what school he was going to. The coach
had known of some of the awards Jim had won in high school. “I told him I
had no offers. Coach Wendelkyn told me he’d make some phone calls and
wrote down my phone number. The next week he volunteered and asked my
parents if he could take me up to Becker Junior College. We went, I tried
out for the team, the coach was interested and I was soon going to
year there, I averaged 24 points per game. I fooled around a little at
academics and had to go to a summer session of school to get my grades up.
After that I swore I would never have to go to summer school again. My
second year our team led the nation in scoring as a team. I was the third
leading scorer in the nation and our team went to the New England
Basketball Championship.” Jim made first team All New England and
Honorable Mention All American at a Junior College. His team had
scrimmaged UConn as well as Holy Cross and Farleigh Dickinson. Schools
including UConn were now interested in him as a Junior College Transfer.
Jim checked out a few of the schools but he chose UConn because it was
close to home and he liked Coach Dee Rowe. “I liked his style. He was a
fatherly figure. He never yelled. He was so smooth. He reminded me of Paul
Newman, a smooth operator. He taught us how to dress, carry ourselves and
speak professionally. He protected us and at the same time cultivated us.
He was just one of the best people I have ever met in my life. Dee Rowe
was the father of what we have today. He built that program and Coach
Calhoun tweaked it.” The UConn program at the time presented a good
opportunity for Jim to play. It was a good team, not senior dominated and
Jim could be a part of that.
year at UConn started off good. I was a starter. I was the leading scorer
however, in January I had an injury. I pulled some ligaments in my knee.”
He had surgery and was basically out for the rest of the season. Now he
only had one year left to play. He worked hard and was back in the
starting lineup. It was a pretty good season, above average. They were
invited to the National Invitational Tournament. They were a
Cinderella team. St. Johns was expected to win but UConn beat them. Next
up for UConn was Boston College who they had just beat two weeks earlier.
“We were up 15-20 points at half time. Coach Rowe decided to slow the game
down and that wasn’t the kind of team UConn was. We lost by one point.
Individually during those two tournament games I played great.”
few weeks later Jim was drafted by the Carolina Cougars in the third round
of the draft. The Carolina Cougars were an American Basketball
Association team. Jim was also drafted by Cleveland in the NBA. He went
to the ABA and ended up with the St. Louis Spirits. He was a starter his
first year but suffered the same knee injury again and was sidelined.
Later, the ABA and the NBA merged and Jim was traded to the Denver
Nuggets, which was the thrill of his life.
Star game was played with the All Stars against the team with the best
record. It was the Nuggets. The Nuggets won and the score was 144-139, one
of the highest scoring All Star games in ABA history. This game started
the All Star Dunk Contest from a dunk that Dr. J did from the free throw
line during half time festivities during this game. Jim received an All
Star Ring from that game.
next year, which was his third year playing professionally and the final
year of his contract, some of the teams had dissolved from the ABA and
there were a lot of trades going on. The teams were looking for size
rather than quickness and Jim pretty much sat out his third year. The
following year he went to Europe and played in Italy but again the knee
injury came back to bother him.
back to Denver and became a sales person for Volvo car parts, for about
eight years. Then in 1984 his dad became very ill with cancer so he moved
back to New Jersey. His dad passed away but Jim decided to stay in New
Jersey and he’s been there ever since. He’s had various sales jobs from
selling computers for Wang until Wang went out of business, when he then
worked in the telecommunications business for 10 years with AT&T and MCI.
He spent a short time as an account executive for a wholesale company
selling internet access to emerging markets and currently he is a lending
officer for a financial mortgage bank in New Jersey.
Jim volunteered as an assistant coach for Saint Peters College in Jersey
City, a Division I school. The team won its division and had an National Collegiate Athletic Association bid. They lost in the first
round but it was exciting for a small school. After that he coached the
freshman team at a local New Jersey high school. He didn’t like it all
that much, since the kids weren’t focused like he thought they should be.
Jim is a
single parent who has raised his two children. He has a daughter, Ashley,
who graduated from Hampton University this past spring and he referred to
her as a “princess”. He has a 13-year-old son, Justin, who he thinks is
going to be special in basketball. He’d like to see his son go to UConn
but it will be Justin’s decision. “I think he’s a gifted athlete but I’m
his dad. I just hope my son has fun and learns the game and gets an
graduate from UConn with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
He had a paper that was due at the time of his NIT experience. “The NIT
games put me on cloud nine that my feet were not on the ground until I was
in the ABA.” Jim finished the paper a few years later and received his
a very good experience for Jim. “It’s helped me to stay competitive. It’s
kept me young. It’s helped me to realize what it means to take care of
your health being an athlete, to sustain injuries and to overcome them.”
UConn taught him a lot not only on the court but off the court. “My four
years at UConn were my treasured years.”
doesn’t get to Connecticut often but he still checks to see how UConn is
doing. Being in New Jersey he hopes the program there, Seton Hall, will
pick up but he never wants to see them beat UConn.
it’s nice to know that your school has won a national championship even though he
wasn’t on the team at the time of the win. As for his thoughts about
UConn, he said he knows Coach Calhoun does a great job and it seems like
they are always a favorite in the Big East. Jim believes that Coach
Calhoun has more talent to work with and its self-generated; no one can
take the credit away from him.