Studies Abroad

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Rodney Foster-Giants.jpgFollowing a four-year career as a student-athlete at Rice University, Rodney Foster's education continued this past year on another continent. While many of his classmates from Rice went on to post-graduate studies, Foster's classroom this past year was a city in the Rhineland area of Germany and basketball courts unlike any in the United States.


Foster's agent worked out a contract just days before the former Rice point guard set out for the city of Leverkusen in the far western reaches of Germany. Just days after arriving in Leverkusen, Foster made his debut as a professional athlete playing for Bayer Giants Leverkusen (and yes, the team takes its name from the pharmaceutical manufacturer which is headquartered in the city).


"It was definitely a quick transition," Foster said. "I got there, settled in and we practices two or three days before our first game."


On the court, Foster had to become adjusted to a different kind of basketball. And outside the team's home venue, Wilhelm Dopatka Halle, the suburban Houston native had to come accustom himself to a new culture.


"I was there to play basketball but I definitely wanted to experience everything I could," he said. "Not too many people get the opportunity to go to another country and live their daily life in a different culture. I definitely got a lot out of the experience."


From late October to the end of April, Foster soaked in a totally different lifestyle. He had an opportunity to visit cities such as Berlin, Frankfort, Munich and Cologne as well as travel to other neighboring countries.


"I learned how Europeans lived," he said. "It is a much slower pace compared to how it is in the United States. The people were very healthy - they walked just about everywhere they went and there was not much traffic."


And the time he was there corresponded with the winter months. For a young man from south Texas, it was an adjustment.


"Being from Houston, I wasn't used to the temperature not getting above freezing for several days at a time during the winter," he said.


On the court, he had to pick up a game which was officiated differently than college hoops and rules which included a 24-second shot clock as well as a trapezoid lane which allows for more spacing and less congestion.


"I had to get used to how they played over there," he said. "You don't have much time to run plays. It was a lot more pick-and roll based. They emphasized the spacing on the floors and you had a lot of shooters on the perimeter. The pace was faster and guys got up and down the floor. We tried to put up a lot of crooked numbers on the board."


And when it comes to officiating, Foster will always remember the first time he called a timeout and was whistled for a technical foul.


"Only coaches can call a timeout," he said. "I wish I had known that before I did it."


For the year he averaged 16.3 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 42 percent from the field and 92 percent from the free throw line.


Foster and his agent will be looking at other possibilities to play in Europe next season but returning for a second year with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen is a definite option. For one thing, Foster said his teammates, who with the exception of one other America were all European, were very good to him and allowed him to quickly ease into a comfort zone on and off the floor. And Foster said the fan support for his team made for a great experience.


"The fan support was crazy," he said. "You had to get used to the constant beating of the drums and all the artificial noisemakers. We packed the arena. The college atmosphere was fun but the fans in Germany were rowdy. They definitely support their players."


Foster is one of several former Rice student-athletes who have or are currently playing in Europe. What looks to be as close to a thorough list of former Rice Owls playing in Europe is available at


The current list also includes Brock Gillespie (Cuxhave Bascats of the Germany-Pro A league); J.R. Harrison (BK Minsk-2006 of the Belarus Premier League); Christian Kollik (ABSC Raiffeisen Graz of the Austria-A Bundesliga league); Aleks Perka (Polonia Azbud Warszawa) and Lorenzo Williams (LTI Giessen 46ers of the Germany-1.Bundesliga).

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