Foust thinks defense-first for Panthers

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Slater Foust grabs a rebound under the basket against Taylor on Tuesday. Foust has been a defensive stopper for the Panthers this season. (Kathy Canady Photo)

Slater Foust grabs a rebound under the basket against Taylor on Tuesday. Foust has been a defensive stopper for the Panthers this season. (Kathy Canady Photo)

By BOB VARMETTE

Liberty Hill junior Slater Foust times his toss perfectly – and knocks a teammate’s shot attempt off its intended trajectory. It falls harmlessly to the floor instead of finding the bottom of the basket.

Getting in some extra work after practice, Foust is still more about stopping someone else from scoring than scoring himself.

That’s his role with the Runnin’ Panthers.

“What he does is he points the press,” Liberty Hill coach Barry Boren said. “He’s the point of it – he’s where it all starts and he gets the ball out of the middle of the floor and moves it toward the double team. From there, the ball gets thrown out of those double teams and we intercept it. We’re averaging creating almost 25 turnovers a game, and that’s a big part of what we do. He’s a big part of what we do.”

In a game where offensive plays are the stuff of highlights, Foust’s stats are modest. He averages just 3.4 points per game. ut on defense, his value shows. Foust has 90 deflections and has forced 202 turnovers – 6.7 per game.

“He does what he can do, and he does that pretty well,” Boren said. “I know this – I’d a lot rather have him playing on my team than us playing against him. He causes some wrecks out there. … He’s a good player for us.”

To say that it almost didn’t happen would be facile. Foust, Boren said, is an athlete and a competitor, no matter what sport he plays, whether it’s football, basketball or baseball.

Foust had to give up football, due to too many concussions. He’s really a baseball player, one who has found a second home on the basketball court.

But basketball almost didn’t happen. Foust, after transferring from Georgetown prior to his freshman year, was part of a group of students who assembled in the gym, and when Foust said he was a baseball player Boren sent him to the other end of the gym with the other baseball players.

Following practice, Boren said, Foust approached him and said he’d like to play basketball, which he’d only played in seventh- and eighth-grade, largely at the prompting of classmates in Georgetown.

“Sometimes, I feel left out,” Foust said regarding the basketball talent he plays with. “But they all accept me. They know my strengths and disadvantages. My strength is obviously defense and my disadvantage is probably making shots. If people have seen us play, they’ll know that, too.”

It’s an interesting mental exercise for Foust. He’s a baseball guy, has been his since he was old enough to play.

The baseball Panthers are practicing and scrimmaging, and he’s one of that team’s top returning players, hitting .400 last season as a sophomore. Panthers baseball coach Mike Kristan can’t wait to have him back on the field as a third baseman and pitcher, too.

But the Runnin’ Panthers are the fourth-ranked team in Class 4A. They’ve finished off a 31-0 regular season, a perfect 10-0 in District 25-4A. An extended postseason looms.

This baseball guy is thinking about basketball.

“Mainly basketball, especially right now – a lot of basketball,” Foust said. “Very little baseball, as a matter of fact. In my eyes, this is a lot more important than baseball right now.”

Important because of the possibilities. Foust has been a big part of a young team’s maturation, and Boren said his competitiveness and aggressiveness will be critical to the Panthers’ defensive efforts as the playoffs bring more formidable competition at each additional step.

Competing in baseball, competing in basketball – Foust competes. His freshman team won its district title two years ago and as a sophomore Foust earned first-team all-district recognition despite averaging less than three points per game.

“He’s a dog, man. He’s very athletic and he’s also fearless,” Boren said. “There’s something called moxie and he’s got it. Baseball is his more natural sport, but he’s a very good basketball player.”

In the midst of a special season.

He knows what memories he wants to take from this basketball season when he starts his baseball season.

“Obviously, I want to be thinking about a state championship, about when I’m going to get my ring,” Foust said. “Of course, I’m going to think back to it, being with Callen (Mikulencak), being on his team. … It’s amazing. I’d never thought I’d be here. Honestly, I never thought I would be in this situation. We’ve come so far.”

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