Over the last few months, I had the opportunity to catch up with Gamecock basketball legend, Jimmy Foster about his South Carolina roots, USC career and his often complex post-basketball life. These were the first interviews he had conducted in nearly a quarter century, and he claims they will be his last.
On following Gamecock sports: “I follow all South Carolina athletics – football, women’s basketball, I follow it all. I love the women’s program. What they have done is amazing. She (Coach Dawn Staley) came in with a plan and that look in her eyes, and she got them (the team) to buy into it. And wow, you know, we’re the new Connecticut. To see 18,000 pack in to see a women’s game, that’s freaking awesome.”
On the South Carolina men’s Final Four run of 2017: “There’s gotta be a little pixie dust mixed in. There’s got to be a little magic. Everything’s got to line up, you know? That was fun to watch. Thornwell… guys like that will put you on their back and that was what he did. And they’ll remember that forever.”
On his playing style: “When I played, I wore my emotions on my sleeve. Thats the way I was in every day life too, which is not always a good thing. But that was the way I played, and when I got on the court, I didn’t care who was in front of me or anything else. I was going to do whatever it took to win.”
On his notorious struggles at the free throw line: “I was better with three people hanging on me, but all of a sudden, now I gotta stop, you know, and the game stops, and that wasn’t my thing. I had to be moving. I had to keep going.” (Foster ranks 3rd all-time for free throws attempted (770), and 5th for free throws made (389), for a .505 average).
On former South Carolina basketball coach Frank McGuire: “Coach McGuire was, and still is to this day, my idol. I respected that man more than anything else in the world. I think he should have been able to stay as long as he wanted to, win, lose or draw, for what he did for the South Carolina program.”
On former South Carolina baseball coach June Raines: “I love that man to death. I used to hang out with the (baseball) team and catch pop flies. I love baseball, and was probably a better baseball player than basketball. I don’t think Raines gets enough credit for what he did with the program. Tanner took it to the next level, but Raines had the program rolling in the 1980s.
On the South Carolina, Clemson rivalry: “When we’re not playing Clemson, I pull for Clemson. That’s a South Carolina team. I hope they kick Alabama’s ass every time.”
On the thought of going back for an alumni game: “There was one time when I was a player, and they brought some of the former players back. Kevin Joyce was there and he walked out and waved and everything. And he looked at me and he said ‘I hate this shit’. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I understand it now. I don’t want to go out there unless I can do what I did then. I know I can’t, and it frustrates me to no end that I can’t do what I used to. I mean, in my mind, I still think I can.”
On living at The Roost (USC’s athletic dormitories) in the early 1980’s: “We all (athletes from different sports) hung out together. You know, I remember we all sat in the TV room and watched Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video when it first came out – that sticks out to me for some reason. It was a real close-knit community. That was our domain – for student-athletes only. We ate there, we lived there, we all interacted with each other.”
On running workouts during his senior season: “We would run from the Coliseum down towards Olympia and back. Me and Gerald Perry, who was a freshman and also a member of the football team, we would be in the back and we would cut out at Todd & Moore Sporting Goods on Huger Street. We’d hang out there for a bit, then rejoin the run when the team came back by. And for some reason, they never caught on.”
On turning 60 in January (2021): “You know, that four years in college, you think when you first get there four years is a long time. Oh my lord, that’s just a whiff. I mean just a breath and it was gone. And now I’m gonna be 60.”
On his place in program history and legacy at South Carolina: “I didn’t realize I had any stats left. I mean, that was a long time ago. Being named among the top ten in USC Basketball history (by The State newspaper), that’s flattering. I had a good run. I was a good college player in the right place at the right time. Its flattering to know that there are still people who give a crap about Jimmy Foster. That’s nice, you know? That feels good to hear. Would I like to go back? Yeah, just once. I used to say no, but that’s not true. I’d love to go back just one time. I just want to see Frank’s old place (the Carolina Coliseum). I just want to walk around there.”