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Steve Wulf
January 16, 1995
Colgate's freshman center, Adonal Foyle, is a big package airmailed from Canouan, a tiny island in the Caribbean
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January 16, 1995

Special Delivery

Colgate's freshman center, Adonal Foyle, is a big package airmailed from Canouan, a tiny island in the Caribbean

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But before the Mandles decided to share the role of a latter-day Professor Henry Higgins, they elicited a promise from Foyle that he would follow their regimen. And what a regimen it was: pop quizzes and reading and vocabulary flash cards and reading and computer study and reading. "I would study with him for two hours in the morning," says Joan, "and Jay would go for two hours in the afternoon. We would be exhausted, and Adonal would say, 'Let's do some more.' " Saturdays were devoted to SAT preparation, and by the spring of his junior year, Foyle's SATs were comfortably above 700.

Oh, yes. Basketball. Coach Gardler was wrong on two counts. In Foyle's junior year at Hamilton High he averaged only 23.6 points, and he got better. That was clear to all the college coaches who were making the pilgrimage to gyms in out-of-the-way places such as Richfield Springs and Morrisville. Hamilton coach Tom Blackford says, "After my morning classes I would have seven or eight phone messages. After lunch I'd have five or six more. Then I'd go home at night and get another seven calls."

The Emerald Knights, who had gone 13-8 the previous season, went 24-1, losing only in the state Class D semifinals. Their home games had to be moved from the Hamilton High gym to Colgate's 3,100-seat Cotterell Court. The ship sailed, all right.

"Forget his dream," says Blackford. "Adonal was a coach's dream come true. And it wasn't just what he did on the court. It was the way he interacted with the team, the opposing team, the community. I'll miss the chants and even the practical jokes; he once had me convinced he had no sneakers before a game. I'll be honest with you: This is not the most racially enlightened place in the world. But Adonal changed a lot of attitudes—not enough, but still a lot.

"One time I took him to a health-education class up in Waterville, and he got up in front of all these seventh-and eighth-graders and asked them, 'What do you see when you look at me?' The first kid who raised his hand said, 'A future NBA player.' Another kid said, 'A big black guy.' It went on like that for a while: shot blocker, basketball star, etc. Finally Adonal cut them off. 'You're all wrong,' he said. 'I'm a student first.'

"Do you know what's ironic? Adonal Foyle came to Hamilton for an education. And he ended up giving us one."

As for Foyle's education, the Mandles never let up. Wherever they went in the summer of '93—back to Canouan, to the Converse ABCD Summer Jam in Ypsilanti, Mich., to AAU competitions in Arizona, Delaware and New York City—they brought along books for him to read. By then Foyle had fallen in love with musicals (it was a production of The King and I in Syracuse that had done it). "One afternoon in New York that summer," recalls Joan, "we went to see The Kiss of the Spider Woman. We were both blown away. Adonal, who was playing for Riverside Church, had a game that night, and I was worried about the aftereffects of the show. But as it turned out, he played very well that night."

During his senior year in high school Foyle not only took advanced-placement courses but was also elected president of the school's chapter of the National Honor Society. On the court he averaged 36.2 points and 20.6 rebounds a game. Hamilton's ship sailed fast, right on through to the Class D championship game, which the Emerald Knights won thanks to Foyle's 45 points and 24 rebounds.

About the only mistake he made was at the basketball banquet after the season. "Sometimes I forget where I am," says Foyle. "Back in the Caribbean, 'Good night' is used as a greeting. So when I stepped to the microphone to give my speech, I said, 'Good night!' and everybody cracked up."

There are those who think Foyle made a much bigger mistake when he announced his college choice. Oddly enough, Colgate's Bruen never pursued Foyle. "Because we were tyros in the whole recruiting process," says Foyle, and, yes, he actually says tyros, "we approached Coach Bruen for advice." And, says Bruen, "because they came as friends, I felt I had no right to put in a good word for Colgate. I suggested Duke and Michigan and Syracuse, great basketball programs with strong academics, but never Colgate."

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