Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Braydn Foster almost didn’t return the most important phone call of his life.
It was in the middle of a crazy summer for the western Pennsylvania native, busy with his final summer of grassroots basketball and a dramatic uptick in his collegiate recruiting, his phone understandably busy. It wasn’t until a few days after Penn assistant Nat Graham had reached out that Foster realized he had a call left unreturned; as it turned out, calling Graham back turned out to be life-changing.
Bradyn Foster (above) committed to Penn last week. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“Really, it took off from there,” he told CoBL by phone Monday afternoon. “We did a Zoom where they offered me, and that was it.”
Just a few months after that offer from Steve Donahue to join his Penn program, Foster became the newest member of the Quakers’ 2024 recruiting class on Thursday, announcing his commitment Monday on social media. He joins Morris Catholic (N.J.) center Michaelangelo Oberti as the two players pledged to come to Penn next fall.
That caps off a breakout summer for the 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from Highlands High School, located just about 20 miles northeast of downtown Pittsburgh. After a big junior season that saw him average 20.5 ppg and 10.4 rpg for the Rams, which won 22 games and made it to the PIAA Class 4A second round, Foster came onto the grassroots scene in the spring with interest from several Division II and Division III programs, not even on any Division I radars.
But once he got out on the Hoop Group circuit with Caveman Basketball, that didn’t take long to change. Coaches quickly started hearing about the mobile, versatile young forward; by May, he picked up his first Division I offers, from Toledo.
“It slowly built up, at first,” he said, “and then it really picked up over the summer.”
By the end of July, he’d been offered by Penn, Fairfield, and Central Arkansas; Navy and Lehigh followed this fall. They all liked his combination of size and ability, able to stretch the floor with his shooting and put the ball on the floor while also banging around the rim and playing physical in the paint.
That was no accident: the son of Mike and Faith Foster, both educators, both over six feet tall, was trained from a young age to be well-rounded on the court and off, knowing he was going to be a post player at the end of the day but wanting to make sure he fit the mold of a modern one.
“He was always naturally bigger than everyone,” said Highlands head coach Cory Dotchin, who first coached Foster in seventh grade, continuing as his JV coach as a freshman before both moved up to varsity positions in 2021-22. “His dad really did a good job of making sure that he wasn’t just a big kid that stood underneath the hoop and made layups, he focused on his ball-handling and shooting.
“He’s always been comfortable shooting the basketball and handling it, but as his body started to change and he started to get even taller, he continued to improve on it and I think that’s why his versatility is where it is, because he’s been doing it for such a long time.”
“Up until high school, I was really trained strictly as a guard and I actually struggled as a big man during my freshman year,” Foster said. “I was lucky to have a coach [in Dotchin] who was good enough with skills that he helped me develop my big man game as well. Being trained as a guard up until this point really helped my versatility.”
The Quakers staff sent him tape of junior forward Nick Spinoso, telling Foster they saw a lot of similarities in the way the two impact the game; Spinoso averaged 8.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 3.1 apg as a sophomore last season, and will be a senior next year when Foster arrives on campus. Foster noted “his versatility and his basketball IQ,” and thought the comparison was a fair one.
Foster visited Penn in late August, taking trips to Fairfield, Central Arkansas and Lehigh before making his decision. He’d been to Philly before, he said, but only “just passing through.” This was his first time spending time in West Philly, getting to meet the team and see the school, which he hadn’t known much about before talking to the coaches a few months before.
“I really liked it when I was there, it was really my number one throughout the whole process,” he said. “I definitely liked the Palestra, of course, it seemed like there was great culture around basketball. Obviously a great school, too.”
Foster said that when his first offer came in, he was skeptical of whether or not it was for real, knowing that sometimes offers can come and go. If any part of him was still doubtful, this past weekend made it all real.
“It’s my dream of course, so it means a lot,” he said. “And I’m proud of how far I came.”