You are here

What my sport taught me: Retired NBA player and Colgate star Adonal Foyle

Adonal Foyle left Colgate as the Raiders' second all-time leading scorer with 1,776 points and leading rebounder with 1,103. At the time of his graduation, Foyle was the NCAA all-time blocked shot leader with 492. Colgate University photo.

Retired NBA player and former Colgate standout Adonal Foyle is the founder and president of two nonprofit organizations, Democracy Matters and the Kerosene Lamp Foundation. A native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Foyle has written several books, including the children’s book “Too-Tall Foyle Finds His Game,” detailing his life experience on the small island. Foyle was adopted by two Colgate professors at age 15. He played basketball with the Raiders for three seasons, leading Colgate to its only two NCAA tournament appearances, before being selected as the eighth overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft. Foyle received his bachelor’s degree from Colgate in 1999, which laid the foundation for his higher education journey.

The idea of the student-athlete was a very sacred thing to me. I think that duality is so important. An education is something you’re going to have for the rest of your life, and it’s important to support and cherish that. Education is about how you evolve as a person and create opportunities for yourself and your family. I had an opportunity to leave Colgate early, and I did, but going back and graduating was important because of the role academics have always played in my life.

Getting my master’s in psychology was my reaction to how I viewed the sporting world and how I wanted to impact that. And then I got my MBA and my honorary doctorate in humane letters. Those degrees are important because it really spells out this idea that education is a lifelong mission, that there is no timeline. It’s something that will define your life until you’re no longer living.

So many things I have accomplished in my life all have their roots and trends in my college experience. After leaving professor Peter Balakian’s class, I knew I was going to be a poet, no matter if I wrote another poem or not. I would always view the world as poetry to some degree. And when I left Leila Philip’s creative writing class, I knew that I was going to write a book.

My first foundation, Democracy Matters, stemmed from a class taught by Colgate professor Coleman Brown. I remember him talking about whether or not my generation was apathetic. It was in that class I decided I wanted to do something to help young people become more involved in our political system. That was the impetus for the Democracy Matters foundation — to empower kids from all over the country to get involved in politics and let their voices be heard.

Adonal Foyle returns to Colgate regularly and takes time to visit with the men's basketball team. Colgate University photo

Growing up overseas and not having the resources other people had, I came up with the idea of the Kerosene Lamp Foundation. This organization empowers the next generation of young people to find a path through understanding the importance of balance between sports and academics. We create access to libraries. We refurbish basketball courts and really focus on that duality between academics and sports.

Through basketball I learned the importance of recognizing multiculturalism. You learn to play with people from all over the world, different backgrounds, different races, different religions. Sport teaches you really how to maneuver between different worlds and master it. We are ambassadors in many ways of our sport, so you learn to be a good citizen. It puts you in a lot of situations to learn and grow, like an academic classroom.

When I go into a classroom and read my book to a group of kids, I always feel amazing. You can see the wheels of a young person turning. They’re trying to reimagine the world. They’re taking a journey into the heart of the Caribbean, but they might still be in Oakland (California). Unleashing a power like that in children to see beyond the circumstances in which they find themselves is so illuminating and so powerful. That’s something for me that never gets tiring. It is constantly ever present with me.