This season, James Foley is going up for dunks on the basket in the maroon and gold. Just a few years ago, though, he was doing the same thing against the Sea Gulls.
The Salisbury University men’s basketball junior forward began his collegiate career in the fall of 2015, well across the Chesapeake Bay. The Arnold, Md. native was initially a Seahawk at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
His early time with the Seahawks offered an impressive start for Foley, who made 27 appearances during the 2015-16 season. As he progressed as the calendar pages turned, Foley saw increased time for St. Mary’s, starting 16 of its final 18 games, which included both matchups against his current school.
Because both the Seahawks and Sea Gulls reside in the Capital Athletic Conference, the two programs play a home-and-home series each season. That season, the sides split that series.
The then-rookie made his introduction into the starting lineup against Salisbury in a St. Mary’s victory on Jan. 2, tallying seven rebounds, two assists and 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Unfortunately for Foley, the same success was not replicated in the second game that season on Jan. 27 as the Seahawks fell at home by 32 points. Foley fouled out of the game after playing just 14 minutes and going a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor for six points.
He finished out his first collegiate season averaging 19.6 minutes per game alongside shooting 50 percent from the field.
However, his first season was also his last as a Seahawk. Foley felt that St. Mary’s just was not a good fit for him.
“When I visited Salisbury during my year off, I loved it,” Foley said. “The guys on the team I loved even more. I’m glad I came.”
After a full year away from the game, Foley reentered Maggs Physical Activities Center to play basketball, this time as a Sea Gull. He showed a spark in his first appearance to start last season, scoring 11 points against Washington College.
Despite three additional double-figure games last season, Foley hit some obstacles along the way, missing a few games during the season. Averaging just 4.7 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game in 24 appearances, the SU forward faced a few injuries, which limited him to just 12.3 minutes per game.
Two of his 24 appearances were in the SU victories over his former school, though. Seeing 27 minutes between both contests, Foley’s performance on Jan. 10 brought six points and five rebounds for the Sea Gulls.
Now in his third season playing Division III basketball, the Annapolis Area Christian School graduate has blossomed on the court to start this year, harkening back to his freshman success at St. Mary’s.
“It’s a lot better [this year]. It’s a lot more fun for me. I don’t have to deal with injuries or go to the training room as often,” Foley said.
Through SU’s undefeated 7-0 start as of Dec. 3, Foley has been a consistent force on the offensive end, third on the team in both points per game (12.6) and field goal percentage at 56.9 percent. That scoring has come in big ways too, tallying two games at 20-plus points alongside a double-double against Lancaster Bible College.
At six-foot-six alongside his long wingspan, Foley has become a treat to fans in Maggs PAC, offering dunks to the audience while he works inside the paint. His greatest presence for Salisbury, though, may be what he does on the defensive end.
Starting in all games so far, Foley has filled a much-needed role inside for SU on both ends of the floor. With the departure of former forward and lead rebounder Chad Barcikowski, he has quickly commanded attention inside the paint.
His teammate and senior forward Chase Kumor also sees Foley’s rebounding as one of his greatest roles with the team. Kumor is the only current Sea Gull on the roster to have faced Foley while he was a Seahawk.
“Overall, he just got better this summer,” Kumor said. “He did get healthy, that was one thing, but he’s in great shape. He’s really versatile. Just with his ability to finish, he’s been going through people instead of fading away. That’s his biggest difference this year, I think.”
In the early part of the season, Foley is leading the Sea Gulls in rebounds per game (7.9) alongside extra defensive stops with 1.1 blocks per game. This progress has aided SU in its consistency on both ends of the floor and also its best start to a campaign since its 2016-17 run to an NCAA tournament appearance.
While Salisbury did not see the same offensive progress from the center position last season, the talent and depth was developing for this season and the ones ahead. Coming off the bench for Salisbury are also juniors J.P. Krotulis and Lucas Martin.
Krotulis started the final 18 games of last season as part of a starting lineup change that spurred team progress on the floor. Martin has offered more scoring as his time in the maroon and gold has grown. The Broadlands, Va. native has had two double-figure scoring games so far.
“He’s all-around just a great talent to have,” SU interim head coach Brian McDermott said. “While he has really helped with everything, he’s really helping to lead the big men in the right direction. He’s pretty much setting the tone for what we want to do inside.”
The more veteran presence now inside the paint has paired with a team deep in experienced guards. Despite only 11 players on its roster, that formula has worked so far for Salisbury, still undefeated through a tough non-conference stretch.
With more weapons on the inside, opposing defenses must account for more Sea Gull options. If Foley and the other forwards can continue their production, Salisbury may have more of a say in the CAC title discussion than what is indicated by its fourth-place selection in the conference’s preseason poll.
“I think everybody on our team just needs to do what they know how to do,” Foley said. “Everyone just wants to help out each other. We all just want to win as a whole team. We’re all just doing our part.”
By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: James Foley defends against Lancaster Bible College. Nov. 16. (Emma Reider/Brendan Link images).