Easier said than done. To get from Hamilton to Canouan, the tiny island in the eastern Caribbean on which Foyle grew up, the Mandles once drove an hour to the Syracuse airport; boarded a USAir flight to New York's JFK Airport; connected to an American Airlines flight for Bridgetown, Barbados; switched to an Air Martinique plane bound for St. Vincent; caught a LIAT flight to Union Island, where a sign advised that "any loose cattle on airfield will be shot at sight"; and then boarded a boat for the clothes-drenching 10-mile commute to Canouan.
But that was nothing compared to the journey Adonal Foyle (played by budding actor Adonal Foyle) has taken from Canouan, a 1,832-acre tropical isle with a population of 740 (except during those unforgettable few weeks in 1989 when SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S swimsuit team invaded), to Colgate, a 1,400-acre, often snowbound isle of academia nuts. Four years ago Adonal was a 15-year-old 6'5" beanpole with minimal education and absolutely no basketball experience. "My future was as a laborer or a fisherman," he says. But now he is that future NBA power forward and is possessed of a vocabulary nearly as impressive as his outlet pass—which, by the way, is something to behold. "The other day," says Bruen, "Adonal was quoted in the paper as saying he had 'esoteric tastes.' Ordinarily the kids on the team would've kidded him about it, but I'm afraid they didn't know what esoteric meant."
In Caribbean Hoops the Mandles write, " 'Hard luck!' is the continuous refrain, shouted by fans and players alike, which accompanies the play of basketball in the Caribbean.... But 'hard luck!', when shouted during a game, does not simply connote defeat. Rather, it is a cry of encouragement and hope as well, urging a player to continue to work hard, to not give up." While there was some good fortune involved in the transformation of Adonal Foyle, it couldn't have happened without a great deal of dedication, both on his part and on that of the Mandles. His journey was more hard than luck.
Says Foyle, "One of the books we read in general education this semester was the Odyssey, and as I read about the adventures of Odysseus—the Cyclops, the Sirens—I was sometimes struck by the similarities between our situations. We both have to undergo trials and overcome obstacles, all with the ultimate goal of going home. Odysseus has his sailing vessel. My vessel is basketball."
Lest you think Foyle has become some sort of nerd who's all work and only the occasional Broadway play—he would rather see The King and I than the Sacramento Kings—consider that he is keen on practical jokes, and when he played for Hamilton High he would not let the bus leave for an away game until he had gone up to the front and delivered this chant:
"Ship sail! Sail fast! How many men on deck?"
Then, after his teammates counted off, Foyle would gesture wildly and yell, "Let's go!"
Foyle says he took the chant from a story his grandparents used to tell him. The name Adonal (pronounced like Adonis) was given to him by an elderly woman who gives all the children on Canouan unusual names. Adonal never really knew his father, and when his mother, Patricia Foyle, departed Canouan to open a shop on Union Island, his upbringing was left to his grandmother, Faith Baptist.
"In some ways Canouan is a paradise," says Foyle. "Crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, temperatures in the 80's, a sea breeze that's always present, a million stars at night. I have wonderful memories of working in the garden with my grandparents, planting and picking peanuts, potatoes, corn and peas. But I also knew there was another world out there, and I dreamed of seeing it."
Unfortunately Canouan didn't even have electricity, much less a secondary school or basketball. Twice Adonal failed the standardized test that would have enabled him to go to the high school on Union Island. Rather than give up, though, he studied for a year, took the test yet again—and passed. It's important to note that even before the Mandles came into his life, Adonal possessed the determination he would need to prosper in the U.S.