He moped more than he moved. He sat more than he shot. He didn't score in a game for the first time in his collegiate career.
Far removed from the freshman sensation who played carefree and emerged as a leader last year, this sophomore version of Marcus Foster is a mess.
If you watched and listened through the first two forgettable months of this Kansas State Wildcats (7-7) season, you saw this coming. There was some posturing and mugging for the camera. Then, there was a flop or two and immediate complaining to an official when a call didn't go his way - much more Marcus Smart than Marcus Foster. Later, there were flashes of "I got mine and my game is good, so things are good," in interviews as his points and K-State losses both accumulated.
Yes, you could feel the tremors of a bad attitude, and, finally, the fracking earthquake shook loose in all its terrible glory against Georgia and now Oklahoma State.
A dejected, frustrated and disconnected Foster spent most of Saturday's tilt in Stillwater on the bench, where it was hard to tell if he spent more energy talking under his breath to teammates than he did in his limited time on the floor. He certainly didn't expend any effort in cheering his teammates. TV cameras were excellent in showing a completely disinterested teammate whose cheering from the bench the game before seems sort of hollow now.
Four shots, zero points, a turnover and a cheap, frustrated, offensive foul while fighting through a defender. That was what Foster did with his 14 minutes. K-State head coach Bruce Weber didn't start Foster, who didn't respond. It's a low point, alright, and it's time for Foster to pick a path at this crossroads because Weber has already done so.
The head coach - the same one who has rightfully earned a contract extension after each of the past two years - has thus far been unable to reach this group including his best player. As conference play begins, K-State has spent far more minutes looking like a rec league collection of reasonable athletes with no real purpose or direction more than a disciplined, cohesive unit.
It has been the antithesis of Bruceketball.
Weber (finally) recently has decided that taking away playing time and/or starter status was the next step. He did so with Thomas Gipson, who has played with his hair on fire since getting benched in the first half of the Georgia game. Weber's sights were also on Foster, who obviously didn't react the same way his senior teammate did.
The move was necessary (Foster's pouting reaction proved as much), and Weber has no choice but to stand his ground now. If Foster doesn't come out of his funk in a way that benefits the team, the coach can't back down and play the team's best offensive player. If he does, the lesson will be lost, and if some thought the inmates were running the asylum before (and based on the sloppy individual play we've seen on the floor at times, one could wonder), it would be even worse.
So, with lines having been drawn where they are, it makes comments like those from ESPN/Big 12 color commentator Reid Gettys especially tricky when he pointed out during the OSU broadcast that Foster hasn't been the problem. Gettys (and other talking heads) didn't like Foster's body language during the game, but he said more than once that Foster has been scoring this year, so he wasn't the issue with K-State.
If Foster (and anyone around him) believes that, then this problem isn't going away anytime soon.
Weber finally put his foot down and had to in the interest of establishing the expectation moving forward. At this point, it isn't a matter of missing the NCAA Tournament (KSU has to go 13-4 just to reach 20 wins). It's a matter of lessons learned, player maturity/development and trying not to finish last in a Big 12 that looks nothing short of ferocious.
Even if Foster comes around, this team's ceiling still won't be high. Both point guards have little-to-no ability to handle pressure, let alone consistently impact defensive sets. Nino Williams is an enforcer in the lane when officials allow a physical game, but not effective otherwise. Wesley Iwundu still seems hesitant to take charge, Justin Edwards might have an effective 8-point game or two against the right matchup, and Stephen Hurt wears glasses well for a big guy.
It's the kind of group that HAS to have effort within clearly defined roles -- all behind a leader. As is, K-State lacks any sort of calling-card identity right now, and none of that will change if its best overall player doesn't shape up his attitude.