MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — There was no reason to suspect that Marcus Foster would be the driving force behind Kansas State's surprising success.
Heck, it even caught him by surprise.
Foster was lightly recruited out of high school, and buried behind more high-profile recruits on his AAU team. He committed to the Wildcats on his only official visit, glad to finally see some Division I attention, and showed up last summer wondering how he would fit in.
One day, he was getting a lift from Shane Southwell and the senior forward asked the freshman guard what his goals were for the season. Foster replied, "I'd like to average six points, maybe a couple rebounds and a couple assists. Have a solid freshman season."
Foster remembers Southwell bringing the car to a screeching halt.
"He looked at me funny," Foster said, "and was like, you can average 15 points. You have that good of a year. And that opened my eyes, that he had so much trust in me."
Southwell proved to be prophetic, too.
After scoring 34 points in an upset of then-No. 15 Texas last weekend, and adding 20 in another upset of seventh-ranked Kansas on Monday night, Foster is scoring — wait for it — exactly 15 points per game, the biggest reason why the Wildcats (17-7, 7-4) are in the Big 12 race.
In fact, he's had more than 20 points in four of his past five games, putting him into contention for conference freshman of the year honors with guys such as Jayhawks forward Andrew Wiggins and center Joel Embiid, a pair of players expected to be NBA lottery picks.
"My whole life, people didn't think I was good enough to compete with the best guys in the country," Foster told The Associated Press. "And to be honest, I'm in disbelief. I didn't think I'd be making an impact this early."
In an age of 24-7 recruiting, AAU showcases and social media, it's rare that a top-flight talent goes largely undetected. Yet in Foster's case, that's precisely what happened.
He was a big-time scorer at Hirschi High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, but he didn't play in a big-time city league or against the best competition.
And he found that few coaches were willing to make the trek north from Dallas or south from Oklahoma City to see him play.
Foster even had trouble catching onto an AAU program, and when he finally joined the Dallas Mustangs, he found himself spending entire games sitting on the bench.