By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Dwayne "D.J." Foreman had a particular interest in Tuesday night's nationally televised men's basketball game between highly-ranked Duke and Kansas.
Foreman watched his former teammate at Massanutten Academy, Frank Mason, log serious minutes as a point guard for the Jayhawks in their victory. Foreman might well have imagined himself on the screen, playing before an arena packed with fans and the cameras rolling to capture his every move on the basketball court.
"It was great seeing him play," Foreman said. "I knew he could play on that level. A lot of people said that when he picked Kansas, he couldn't do it. But playing with him in practice and in the games, he just looked like that type of player. He's doing what he's supposed to be doing out there."
Foreman and Massanutten teammate Isaac Fleming took the next step in continuing their own journey as basketball players on Wednesday as both signed national letters-of-intent to play NCAA Division I college basketball next season during a ceremony in the school library.
Foreman, a 6-foot-9 forward from Spring Valley, N.Y., confirmed the verbal commitment he made over the summer by signing with Rutgers. Fleming, a 6-4 combo guard from Bear, Del., also made his earlier verbal commitment official by signing with Hawaii. The two are the first from this season's Massanutten team to sign, and join a long list of past Colonels to go on to major college programs.
"It's a great feeling," Foreman said. "Coming where I'm from, it's a football town. I worked real hard and I came here, I've been in this program for three years. It's a great feeling to know that I'm finally going to be playing high-major level basketball, and I feel like I'm going to be doing great things on that level myself thanks to this program."
Foreman, who said he also considered Minnesota, Providence, Oklahoma, USC and Miami (Fla.), is looking forward to playing for Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan. Foreman won't get to play in the Big East Conference, though -- the Scarlet Knights are in their final year in that league before heading off to join the Big Ten Conference on July 1, 2014. That's fine by Foreman.
"I'm really happy that they're in the Big Ten," Foreman said. "That fell into my decision, too, because I'm going to be playing team after team and it's going to be a challenge every night. That's really what I want out of basketball is a challenge every night."
Foreman is averaging about 16 points and seven rebounds a game for the Colonels this season, and continues to improve according to first-year head coach Melvin Abrams. Although Foreman was a legitimate Division I prospect when he arrived as a junior at Massanutten, Abrams said just what level of recruit he could become was once less certain.
"From a physical standpoint, he's gotten bigger and gotten stronger," Abrams said. "Just seeing how he's developed and progressed as a basketball player, but from my perspective more importantly a better person, and how he's matured. He's continued to work on his game and some of the other aspects of who he is as a person. It's a joy to see him mature in all those different facets."
Foreman said the structured and close-knit environment at Massanutten Academy helped him to elevate his game and focus on his studies.
"It's away from everything, and there's less distractions," Foreman said. "I was able to focus more on my schoolwork and basketball itself. Each year I was getting [twice as good] as the year before."
Fleming is in his first year at Massanutten Academy, but he's quickly made an impact for the Colonels. He currently leads the team in scoring with 19 points per game and also averages five rebounds and four assists per outing. Fleming has seen his stock skyrocket over the past year or so, leading to multiple Division I offers.
"We brought him over for a visit, and I immediately knew that I wanted him to be a part of what we were doing here in this program moving forward," Abrams said. "Over the next few months after he made a commitment to come here, he just continued to progress and the buzz got out about him. Schools kind of jumped on him and started following him and calling about him."
Fleming, who also considered Wake Forest, George Mason, Virginia and Delaware, chose far-off Hawaii for a simple reason -- comfort.
"Even though it's a distance, I didn't really look at that too much," Fleming said. "When I went on my visit in August, I just felt most comfortable there because everything was more family-oriented."
The Warriors, part of the Mountain West Conference, play an up-tempo style that suits Fleming's preferences.
"They just play the type of basketball I like to play," Fleming said. "You get up and down the court. It just lets me express myself and play my game."
Abrams said Fleming is a natural scorer, but that's not all he can do on the basketball court.
"He rebounds well for a guard, and he's an unselfish player," Abrams said. "Usually guys who can score tend to lock in, but he's an unselfish player."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>