On Union he was reunited with his mother and introduced to basketball. "The first time I touched the ball, I ran the length of the court without dribbling," he says. "That's how little I knew about the game." Still, his height proved irresistible to the organizers of the Union Island team, and soon he was playing with men twice his age. In the summer of '91 the Union team won the championship of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the chain of islands to which both Union and Canouan belong, and thus earned a berth in an Eastern Caribbean States tournament on the island of Dominica.
Enter the Mandles. For several summers Jay and Joan and their son, Jon (a young Art Garfunkel), had crisscrossed the Caribbean to study the sociology and economy of the region, as well as to teach aspiring basketball officials. Jay, who still works high school games, grew up in Philadelphia worshiping famed referee Mendy Rudolph, and he liked nothing better than to patiently explain to a ref from St. Kitts, for instance, that 26 technical fouls in one game was not necessarily a good thing.
"I actually saw Adonal first," says Jon, a philosophy professor at SUNY Albany. "His game was rough, but he could block shots, rebound and throw an outlet pass like Wes Unseld. I asked around—I talked to this wonderful Rastafarian named Jobbie—and I reported back to Dad, who had seen Adonal by now. 'How old do you think he is?' I asked. Dad guessed he was 21. 'Nope,' I said. 'Eighteen?' 'No, 15.' "
(The Mandles actually have a videotape of that tournament. There is this skinny kid with a bandage on his right knee playing for Union Island, and while he does occasionally seem lost out there under the lights on the outdoor court with the wooden backboards, his potential fairly shouts out.)
After debating whether or not to approach Foyle—they are college professors, remember—and deciding that they would approach him if he were a potential concert violinist, the Mandles went up to him after one of the games and asked if he would like to go to school in the U.S. "I'll never forget his answer," says Jay. "He said, 'That is my dream.' "
As Foyle recalls, "I did feel like I was dreaming. I went back to the barracks where the team was staying to tell them the news, but somehow they already knew. They lifted me off the ground, and everybody started dancing and celebrating."
The Mandles talked with Patricia Foyle and got her permission to bring Adonal to the States. Although the Mandles had recently received appointments to Colgate, they were more familiar with the Philadelphia area—Jay had taught at Temple. Joan at the Delaware County campus of Penn State. After consulting various coaches and showing that tournament tape around, they arranged for Foyle to enroll at Cardinal O'Hara High School, a basketball power with a good academic reputation. So in the late summer of '91 they awaited his arrival. And awaited. "He was supposed to come into Philadelphia on a 3:30 p.m. flight from JFK," says Joan, "but he wasn't on that one. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Jay even called Jobbie to find out what had happened. Adonal had missed one of his connections, it turned out. Finally, at midnight, he stepped off a plane. I asked him, 'Adonal, how did you manage to get on the right plane in New York?' And he said, 'Oh, the prime minister helped me.' "
"It's true," says Foyle. "The prime minister [of St. Vincent and the Grenadines], James Fitzgerald Mitchell, was on the same flight from Barbados. He saw that I was lost and helped me find my way through JFK. Someday, perhaps, I will be prime minister, and I'll help another Vincentian who is lost."
During his first few months in Philadelphia, Foyle often felt out of place. "The first time I stepped into an elevator and the doors closed and it started to move, I froze stiff. Eventually I figured it out. I'll never forget my first traffic jam: cars as far as the eye could see. I'd seen one on television, but I couldn't believe there were that many cars, that many people. Can you imagine what it was like for someone like me, who grew up on a tiny island with 800 people, to walk into Veterans Stadium for an Eagles game and sec 60,000 people?"
On the surface things seemed to go well for Foyle that first year. While living with a Cardinal O'Hara assistant coach and his wife, he averaged 16.4 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots a game and led his team to the Catholic League playoffs. He also received A's and B's in his sophomore classes. But the next summer, when the Mandles discovered that his total SAT scores were in the low 500's, far below the NCAA eligibility requirement of 700, they abruptly pulled him out of Cardinal O'Hara and moved him to Hamilton. That left O'Hara coach Buddy Gardler fuming. Said Gardler at the time, "He didn't know how to cross a busy street, and they're complaining about his board scores? He'll average 30 points [in Hamilton], but he's not going to get any better." Hell hath no fury like a coach scorned.