The pass from Chris Paul hit Foye in the hands about waist high on the left wing and Portland forward J.J. Hickson, five inches taller than the Clipper shooting guard, was zeroing in on a potentially game-saving block.
In a fluid motion, Foye made the basket over Hickson's out-stretched right arm. And with 47.8 seconds left, he gave the Clippers a one-point lead in a game won two possessions later on a layup by Paul.
The shot was one of Foye's best plays in his nearly two years as a Clipper, a flashback of sorts to his days as Big East Player of the Year at Villanova University. But at the same time, no one in Staples Center that night was more confident the shot was going down than Foye himself.
That's part of who the six-year veteran is. Unafraid of the moment.
BRICK CITY KID
Randy Foye was a Big East Player of the Year at Villanova University (NBAE/Getty)
A certain degree of it has to do with the 28-year-old's past.
He grew up in Newark, New Jersey, the Garden State's largest city, and a 16-mile jaunt through the Lincoln Tunnel from Manhattan. It's the kind of city that gets much of its notoriety for its warts. The 1995 film New Jersey Drive depicted Newark as the "car theft capital of the world," a moniker not farfetched, considering a 2006 FBI report reported nearly four times more vehicle thefts occur in the Newark city limits than the average American city. Car theft rivals only the vast cherry blossom trees in prevalence in Newark, but the city also greatly exceeds national averages in murder rate (37.4 per 100,000 people as compared to seven elsewhere in the country) and robbery rate (458.6 to 32.2).
"Newark, New Jersey is one of the worst cities in America when it comes to murders, drug violence, single-parent homes, and kids being on the street at an early age," Foye said. "It was rough, but it built me up and made me the person who I am today."
You could say Foye was raised by the city. His father was killed in a motorcycle accident when he was a toddler. Approximately three years later, his mother disappeared, leaving young Randy to live with his grandmother and numerous other relatives.
"Basically, I moved back and forth between grandmoms and aunts and uncles and basically just stayed in the neighborhood, but went back and forth between my family," Foye told NBA.com in an aptly titled 2007 feature called My Amazing Journey.
Basketball emerged as an integral part of his life at age 8, a little more than three years after his mother, Regina, left. The sport offered a temporary escape from some of the gloominess of inner-city life; a point of discipline, an opportunity.
Reflecting on what the sport has done for him, Foye said, "Basketball has been my everything. Without basketball I would not be the person that I am today, I wouldn't be the husband that I am, I wouldn't be the father that I am because basketball helped me speak better, basketball has helped me learn how to work, basketball has taught me what being on time is, basketball has taught me what being a true, blue-collar, hard-working kid is."
According to Foye, there were times as a teenager when people he knew in the neighborhood would want to steal a car or cause trouble, but basketball along with his religious faith steered him in the right direction.
"I'm talking about more on the page of we're hanging out and someone wants to go and steal a car and I'm saying, 'No, I'm alright' then I hear that person got arrested. Then if someone's going to do something bad, I'd say, 'No, man, I'm going to go play basketball' and then would hear that person was in the hospital from getting shot or something like that. That's what I'm talking about when I say God controlling my destiny."
Attending East Side High, Foye quickly ascended to in-state stardom on the court. As a senior he averaged 20.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.4 steals, earning New Jersey player of the year honors and leading the Red Raiders to the 2001-02 Group IV title.
He was a similar all-around force at Villanova, using his stout 6-foot-4 frame to score in bunches and out-muscle smaller collegiate guards. With Foye, future first-round pick Kyle Lowry and cat-quick Allan Ray in the backcourt, the Wildcats emerged as perennial national contenders in the mid-2000s, culminating with a trip to the Elite 8, a 75-62 loss to the eventual National Champion Florida Gators in Foye's senior season.
He won conference player of the year that season and was tabbed as a sure-fire lottery pick. Perhaps more importantly in his eyes, he graduated in the spring with a B.A. in geography and a minor in sociology, becoming the first member of the Foye family to complete college.
There's somewhat of a blurry line between where Foye has come from and where he's always been headed. Brick City, the place that's claimed thousands of youngsters over the years, will be forever ingrained in him. That's why it was so important for Foye, who is seemingly unprecedented in his generosity, to give back.
He started the Randy Foye Foundation five years ago, something he said took "guts" to do at 23, a season after being selected No. 7 overall in the draft by the Celtics before subsequently being dealt, via the Portland Trail Blazers, to the Timberwolves for Brandon Roy.
"[Starting the foundation] has meant a lot, not only to me, but to my family," Foye said. "Understanding the position I've been put in, going to college, graduating, and receiving a degree, and understanding that I was in a position to give back, so that was something that I needed to do because there are so many kids that are unfortunate that grow up in urban areas."
"He's a hands-on role model who lets kids understand, 'This guy sat in the same desk I'm sitting in. If he can make it, so can I,'" said Christina Vuocolo, the foundation's Vice President. "Through his community involvement, Randy has used his mantra of 'believe in the impossible' to build a successful foundation that has had a great impact on youth in the Newark community.
"The mission is so personal to him, because he was once that struggling kid. The fact that he wants to give back says a lot about his character and sums up who Randy Foye is."
One of the most ambitious projects is the foundation's Assist 4 Life mentoring program which works predominantly with seventh and eighth graders through character education. Students apply by essay each year with winners selected by Foye. On April 4, the group attended the Clippers' game against the Lakers, and spent spring break sightseeing and hanging out with Foye in L.A.
SHOT WITH THE CLIPPERS
After the game, Foye made a pact with himself to be more aggressive.
"Sometimes [things] are upsetting, but at the end of the day, my whole thing is just working hard and coming in and being a man about everything that I do," said Foye, who responded with 23 points and five 3-pointers in a loss to Oklahoma City the next night. "I think that's something that coach [Vinny Del Negro] has seen in me and I know for sure that's something that my teammates have seen in me."
The Clippers lost their next two games and returned to Los Angeles for a make-or-break five-game home stand. The dream season was on the brink. And that's when everything seemed to click. Suddenly, opposing defenses were punished dearly for leaving Foye open on the 3-point wing, his noted favorite spot on the floor.
He scored 17 or more points in six of the next nine games, including a franchise record-tying eight 3-pointers in a 28-point outburst in Dallas on April 2. In the span of a week, Foye made the second most shots from behind the arc in the NBA.
All-Star Blake Griffin called Foye's play "unbelievable." And Paul said it was all about confidence.
RANDY FOYE THROUGH A TEAMMATE'S EYES
On Randy Foye the person:
"He's a great teammate, a great man off the court with his family. He's a great supporter of everyone in this locker room, whether it was last year when he wasn't playing as much, being hurt, or this year playing a lot, and obviously going through some ups and downs, not playing in a whole game and then coming back and being a leading scorer and having eight threes in a game."
On his character:
"His mental [makeup] and how strong he is and the faith he has in, first, himself, and, of course, the lord, I think shows a lot of his character and how he is supportive of everyone."
On his game:
"He goes out there and works on his game tremendously. I think you can tell by his 3-point shooting ability this season that that was a main focus for him to work on especially when he wasn't going to be a primary ball-handler. We have a primary ball-handler in Chris [Paul], whose job is to get other guys shots and you've got to be ready to take those shots. When you look at Foye, he's been doing that. He does dribble the ball and create for himself sometimes, but most of the time he's spotting up and being ready to knock down a shot. Defensively, I think, since I've known him, since he's been in the NBA, he's gotten tremendously better. He can guard multiple positions, ones, twos, threes, some small fours as well. It's a real testament to how hard he's worked this year and over his career and it's starting to show for him now."
To some extent, the breakout performances were the result of Foye finally adapting to a role that's seemingly been altered at every turn in his two years with the Clippers. He spent the first half of last season, his first in L.A., recovering from a hamstring injury. When the lockout ended in December 2011, it appeared Foye was going to be used as a combo-guard off the bench. But two months later that role drastically changed when guard Chauncey Billups went down for the season with a torn left Achilles tendon.
"It's all about having faith and working on your game," said reserve forward Ryan Gomes, who has known Foye since their days as rivals in the Big East and later teammates with the Timberwolves. "And you never stop working because you never know when an opportunity might come and when it does come you've got to be ready. For him, with Chauncey going down, it came. He had to take up a pretty big load offensively and defensively and I think he's been playing up to that par, especially over the last 15 games."
Foye echoed Gomes, saying, "We always talk on the plane. Me, [Kenyon Martin], and Ryan and understand that there's always really long seasons and there's always opportunities where, you know, if something happens. I remember talking to Chauncey about that and he said when he went down, this is an opportunity."
As the Clippers head to the playoffs for the fifth time since moving west in 1978, it marks another opportunity, "another chapter," according to Foye, who in five previous seasons has never played a postseason game.
"I would think that for most guys, knowing that they're about to play in their first playoff game pretty soon, they'd probably be nervous, but I'm always ready for the big moment," Foye said. "I'm never really scared of anything, always take on any type of confrontation head on, always know with adversity that there's a light at the end of the tunnel."
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