Volleyball

Foster Loyer found a home, and Clarkston basketball is thriving

Clarkston point guard Foster Loyer (1) looks at the scoreboard during a game against Hazel Park on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, at Clarkston.

Clarkston point guard Foster Loyer (1) looks at the scoreboard during a game against Hazel Park on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, at Clarkston.

Dan Fife doesn’t remember getting the email.

Junior point guard Foster Loyer was in the sixth grade when his dad, John Loyer, was taking a job with the Detroit Pistons as an assistant coach under Lawrence Frank. Katie Loyer, the family matriarch, was looking for a spot to settle sons Foster and Fletcher and daughter Jersey.

“John had been here while the (NBA) lockout was going on, and we didn’t move here for six more months,’’ Katie said. “People were recommending the Rochester area and Farmington Hills and Bloomfield Hills.

“John started going around, visiting sporting events. Any time he had a night off, he’d go check out a game. He happened to check out a Friday night football game at Clarkston. It must have been homecoming or something, because it was sold-out.

“I remember him calling me and saying, ‘Kate, you’re not going to believe this. There has to be 12 to 15,000 people here.’ I’m like, ‘Come on.’ We started researching the Clarkston basketball program.”

Katie Loyer played volleyball at Indiana and recognized the name of Fife, the head coach at Clarkston. Fife son Dane was a basketball star with the Hoosiers after Katie left.

“We were like, ‘Oh, man, this guy has been here 30 years,'” Katie said of Dan Fife. “This is what you want. The tradition. I had some questions. Me being a coach and John being a coach.’’

But Fife didn’t respond to the email.

“I thought he must not care, because I wasn’t asking any favors,” Katie said, laughing. “I just wanted to know a little about the program and what I should look at, AAUwise. I never got any response at all. My husband was coaching the Pistons, and I thought my son might be a good player. He was little. When I told coach Fife the story, he said, ‘I don’t know if I even read the email.'”

Says Fife: “I get hundreds of calls about kids moving into the community. She said she called me or emailed me, and I just don’t remember. I’m being perfectly honest.’’

But it was a good thing for Clarkston that Katie was sold on the area. Foster Loyer has started since he was a freshman and now is one of the state’s top basketball players.

A shade under 6 feet, Loyer is averaging 27.1 points, 5.3 assists and five rebounds per game for the undefeated Wolves. He’s shooting 60% from the field and 42% from three-point land. He ran his streak of consecutive made free throws to 110 in a 66-46 victory over Hazel Park on Thursday night. Loyer had 20 points and five assists in the victory.

He’s a gym rat with a basketball IQ off the charts, according to Fife, and is as coachable as any kid he has worked with.

Loyer was given the keys to the team, basically, after the team’s first open gym and hasn’t looked back. After watching him work out, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo offered him a scholarship. After giving it some thought, Foster accepted. He is verbally committed to MSU’s 2018 recruiting class.

John Loyer eventually served as the Pistons’ interim head coach after Maurice Cheeks was fired in 2014. Even after he was replaced by Stan Van Gundy, the family decided that Clarkston would be their home.

That was a relief for Foster.

“I know we moved to a lot of different places, but the ones I remember most is Portland, and then I moved to Philadelphia,’’ Foster said. “I went to elementary school and started the sixth grade there. I think I moved seven or eight times. I’ve moved to a few places, some not for very long. Most of it was when I was really young.”

Leery about moving again, Foster said he didn’t know how long the family would put down roots in Clarkston.

“After my freshman year and the success we had with that team, I think we made the decision to ultimately stay here through the rest of high school, regardless of what my dad’s situation was,’’ Foster said. “That was a big decision for me, just to have that peace of mind.’’

John Loyer now is a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers, but Foster is in good hands with Fife.

“Unbelievable,’’ Fife said. “He has been pretty dang good from day one. He was good as an eighth-grader. His brother is a good player already in seventh grade. They play. They play all the time. …

“Foster, if he’s 16 or 17, he’s going on 25. His basketball IQ is so high. As a freshman, his IQ was incredible. He works hard. He loves to practice. He loves to work out. You never have to tell him to come to the gym. I would say Foster’s basketball IQ is about as high as you can get for a kid his age.’’

Foster and John Loyer have had lengthy conversations during drives home from games.

“My dad was the guy that … every game, breaking down the film,’’ Foster said. “Just having that influence on every aspect of my basketball career and game has been huge for me. Working on the weaknesses that I needed to improve on and continuing to improve your strengths was something we worked on every day. We’d work out at the gym, and he’s the person I looked up to and learned from and the person I wanted to take after.’’

As for the coach-to-coach relationship?

“John doesn’t get involved, but if I have a question, he’s ready to help,” Fife said. “The guy has coached in the NBA. He’s worth a lot to me. I can talk to him about things. He sees at a different level. He adds to us. He has really been a good guy.”

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