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Catlin Gabel alum. overseas pro runs kids' summer camp/



TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Alex Foster, a 6-8 pro basketball player, instructs youth attending a camp he runs at his alma mater, Catlin Gabel.It’s morning at Catlin Gabel, and the repetitive spritz of the sprinklers is the only sound on campus. School is out, and a meeting for host families of foreign exchange students is the only other sign of life on the 67-acre campus.

Even minus much activity, a walk around the school brings back fond memories for Catlin basketball legend Alex Foster.

Foster, who attended Catlin from third grade through high school, points to where his athletic career all began: a trio of weathered hoops outside the cafeteria. The hoops increase in height from left to right. At 6-8, Foster very nearly bumps his head on the shortest one.

Genetics aside, Foster gives credit for his height to the “barn ladies” who served him and his classmates meals at Catlin.

“The cafeteria is called ‘The Barn’ because this used to be a farm,” Foster says. “We had ‘barn ladies’ instead of cafeteria ladies, and they fed me really well, so I have to thank them for my height.”

In elementary school, lunchtime basketball games got heated, especially with childhood friend Matt McCarron, who went on to become an all-state golfer. The two played prep basketball and golf together at Catlin.

“We really went at it — and we were just tiny little kids,” Foster says. “One time we were playing and I shoved him so hard his head put a dent in a wall. I don’t think the teachers ever found out about that.”

That competitive fire was ever-present in Foster’s senior year at Catlin Gabel in 2011, when he averaged more than 23 points per game, was a nominee for McDonald’s All-America honors, and earned a scholarship to play basketball at Emory University in Atlanta.

Foster fueled Catlin’s state tournament run by averaging 33.7 points in playoffs victories over Corbett, Warrenton and Portland Adventist — teams that had gone 6-0 against the Eagles during the regular season. Catlin’s postseason run came to an end with a 61-38 loss to

Dayton in the Oregon School Activities Association Class 3A round of 16.

Before Foster, nobody from Catlin Gabel had ever gone on to play college basketball.

“I think because I had the chance to play in college, a lot of kids at Catlin now see that as a viable option,” Foster says. “I try to come back in the summers when I can and stay connected with the guys.”

It wouldn’t take long for Foster to make new connections at Emory, particularly point guard Michael Florin, who came in the same recruiting class from Port Washington, New York. The pair lived in the same building freshman year and together for their final three years of college.

Foster says he and Florin became close friends in their time at Emory, where Foster would become a Division-III first-team All-American his senior year.

“I think that connection showed on the court, too,” Foster says. “With him being my point guard and me being the scorer, we were able to vibe that way.”

Moving across the country to Atlanta was an adjustment for Foster, but he says he wanted a different experience.

“After growing up here, Portland was just this little utopia I needed to get out of,” Foster says. “I wanted to see something more real — a little more gritty — and for me the idea of Atlanta that comes from hip-hop music and civil rights culture was so appealing.”

Foster is a big fan of hip-hop. He grew up listening to Outkast, T.I., Ludacris and other Atlanta-based rappers.

“Those guys would talk about Atlanta in their music,” Foster says. “Me being a kid going to Catlin Gabel, listening to hip-hop and playing basketball every day, I wanted to know what that was like.”

Admittedly, Foster says Emory is not exactly emblematic of the lifestyle those rappers portray, given that it’s a private school focused on academics. However, he and his buddies “dabbled in that scene, too” when they lived in Atlanta.

As far as what he calls his favorite “commercially viable” rappers of this day and age, Foster says high school students he’s worked with have introduced him to such artists as Rich Homie Quan, Young Thug, Migos and Lil Yachty. Another one of his favorites is Chance the Rapper, who recently released his mixtape, “Coloring Book.”

Hip-hop and basketball culture collided when Foster played in the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League last summer. Rappers including 2 Chainz and NBA players such as Lou Williams and Paul Millsap fielded teams for weekly games.

“It’s rowdy,” Foster says, with a laugh. “There’s an MC running up and down the court commentating on the plays, and I’m just out there as this kid from Emory.

“They’re super inclusive, too — if you can play, you can play.”

Basketball’s universal language was useful for Foster when he played in the AEBL, but now it’s crucial as he goes to Cologne, Germany, to play for RheinStars Köln of the Pro-A League.

It also doesn’t hurt that Foster was born in Germany and speaks fluent German.

“My mother is German, and she raised me bilingually at home,” Foster says. “Half of my cultural identity is German, and I always had that inkling that I wanted to live in Germany. I had no idea it would be through basketball.”

Foster and his girlfriend, Brielle Scully, live in Germany during the season, August to April. It’s been a far greater adjustment for Scully, who doesn’t speak German. She attends a university in an English-speaking program.

The couple met at Emory and had an instant connection.

“We went out one night and just kind of bumped into each other,” Foster says. “But for one reason or another she left, and I was pretty bummed about it.”

Still reeling from that night, Foster used Facebook to help find her.

“Through the gift of technology, I was able to track her down,” he says. “My friend and I were writing this script for a campus movie fest and my excuse to Facebook message her was that we were looking for this bombshell character to play our female lead.

“Things took off from there, and we’ve been together ever since.”

Scully was there to support Foster throughout his first year as a pro. In the 2015-16 season, he averaged 9.6 points per game while shooting 34 percent from the 3-point line for the RheinStars. This season, Köln went 13-17, good for 12th place among 16 teams in the league.

Now, Foster and Scully are enjoying the offseason in Portland with his family. Foster’s focus this summer is a basketball camp he has been running at Catlin Gabel for ages 9-18.

Sense Basketball, the basketball program at Catlin Gabel, provides individual training. For ages 9-13, Foster focuses on the fundamentals. The camp for ages 14-18 featured a unique training from Foster and his two assistant coaches.

“My whole mission with the basketball camp is to honor each individual kid’s relationship with basketball,” Foster says. “Sometimes in youth basketball we have the phenoms — the super-talented kids — who get all the resources. The kids who aren’t at that point yet get left behind, and that’s not right.”

Sense Basketball’s camp for older kids was titled “Extending Skills and Stretching the Mind.” Foster and his assistant coaches, Jeb Ivey and Wally Walsh, integrated skill development with physical and mental fitness.

Walsh instructed campers in “awareness through movement” exercises to strengthen the connection between mind and body, on and off the court.

Ivey, a former Portland State player who boasts a 13-year career in France, Germany and Finland and set the Guinness world record for most consecutive games with a made 3-pointer (177), focused on improving the campers’ skills — especially their shooting.

Foster hopes to eventually leave an even greater legacy at Catlin Gabel than he did as a player. The Sense Basketball camps are a start, but he wants to do more.

“This campus is amazing and beautiful, but someone needs to build a new gym,” Foster says. “Down the road, that’s in the back of my mind, too.”

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Twitter: @RyanTClarke

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