Judge Thomas Cannon Jr. enters his courtroom, and those present are asked to rise. At 6-foot-7, Jacob Foster seems to rise higher than the others present.
Foster, a senior basketball player at Wapahani, attends the first four periods of school this semester in Selma. Then he goes home, changes into dress clothes, and spends his afternoons doing an internship in the Delaware County prosecutor’s office. Foster reports to the Delaware County Building, then typically proceeds to a courtroom to shadow some of the afternoon’s court hearings.
He wears a dress shirt, with a tie and slacks. He sits up in his chair in the audience, attentively watching the proceedings. The bulk of his time on Monday is spent observing Cannon’s courtroom, where some defendants are agreeing to plea deals and others are going through initial hearings as their cases begin.
Foster’s day doesn’t end in the courtroom. He then must turn his focus to basketball. Such has been Foster’s routine since school resumed for the semester, heading back to Wapahani for practice wearing a dress shirt and slacks after an afternoon in the courtroom.
The sectional tournament begins tonight, and the Raiders will play their first game in the Class 2A Lapel Sectional on Friday, meeting either Lapel or Shenandoah in a sectional semifinal game. The championship will be Saturday.
Foster is the Raiders’ second-leading scorer, averaging 17.5 points per game. He has been a key piece of a Raiders team that finished the regular season 20-1 and ranked No. 3 in the Class 2A poll, providing an intimidating presence in the post that can’t often be matched.
He hopes to play college basketball, but has yet to pick a school. He has received interest from schools at a range of levels, but is now primarily focused on some schools at the Division II level. He said Maryville (Mo.), Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.) and Findlay (Ohio) are among the schools he is considering. He said academics will be a point of emphasis.
“He’s going to play college basketball, I’m not sure at what level,” Wapahani coach Matt Luce said. “He may play at an NAIA level, he may play at a Division II school. But he’s going to play college basketball. But as much as he wants to continue his career, he’s also mature enough and understands the situation to realize that he wants to get his education at the highest level, and has very high career goals.”
Luce remembers teaching Foster in Algebra I during the player’s freshman year. He said Foster missed just a few points in the class throughout the term, sitting in the front row and producing high marks.
“He’s a great listener, he surprises you how intelligent he is,” Luce said. “And he will have a great future because of that. It’s also why he’s a very good basketball player. We’re trying to tell our younger kids. One thing, it helps when he’s 6-foot-7 and athletic. But he listens, and he’s very intelligent and you only have to tell him one time. And that’s going to make him have a great career when he grows up.”
Foster displays a serious facial expression throughout Monday’s proceedings, and says he applies a similar spirit to his time in the courtroom.
“I watch everything,” Foster said. “I watch the prosecutors, how they do what they do. I watch the lawyers, I watch the judge. So, yeah, that’s exactly what it’s like, just soaking it all in, trying to get as much from it as I can, these five months that I’m in there.”
In their five years of going to school together, teammate Grant Evans has gotten to know Foster well. When they were in eighth grade, Foster would often go home with Evans before eventually going to his own house. Foster was new to Wapahani then, and Evans said that time together helped them strengthen their friendship.
Evans said he wondered why Foster chose to do an internship in the prosecutor’s office, but said it seemed to fit Foster’s personality, which is that of a complex person who can sometimes surprise even his closest friends.
Evans describes Foster as outgoing, someone who is quick to trade barbs with teammates or find reason for good-natured ribbing. But when more serious subjects, such as his college future, come up, Foster can sometimes get quiet.
When he does open up about more serious subjects, Evans said Foster’s intelligence is easy to see.
“When it comes to just school smarts and street smarts, (Foster) is probably the overall smartest out of our whole senior bunch,” Evans said. “And so he has a bunch of just interesting facts that you wouldn’t know. So it doesn’t surprise us when he tells us something.”
While law is an interest of Foster’s, he is still uncertain exactly what career he wants to pursue. Yet he has pursued a rigorous course load at Wapahani, participating in the academic honors track that requires him to take additional classes beyond the basic requirements.
As his high school basketball career comes to an end within the next few weeks, Foster hopes the additional experiences he’s taken on can help him plan the next stages of his life.
“It’s made me stay on track a little bit more,” Foster said.
Court eventually adjourns, and the visitors’ area has cleared, each party leaving after its matter is heard. It becomes clear it is time for Foster to move on to the next portion of his day. Foster speaks briefly with a prosecutor who has been working in the courtroom before leaving.
He then exits the courtroom and walks out the building’s doors. It is time to go to basketball practice.