Foye finds guidance in HS teachers
By the time Randy Foye was five years old, his mother and father were gone from his life.
Living with his grandmother in the rough inner-city of Newark, N.J., Foye never found serious trouble, but nonetheless struggled to find stability.
The turning point in his life came at East Side High School in Newark. Though there was certainly success on the court, the real story lies in the utmost generosity of two adults at the school who took Foye in as a son.
By the time Foye graduated, teacher Maria Contardo and basketball head coach Bryan Garvin, who each have their own children, became the mother and father that Foye never knew.
Largely due to their efforts, Foye is currently a junior guard at Villanova. The Wildcats host the Orange on Saturday at noon in The Pavilion.
While it would be inaccurate to say Foye didn’t have a support system before he met Contardo and Garvin – he had many aunts and his other grandmother living nearby – it was obviously still difficult for him without true parents.
‘Growing up I was getting all these accolades at award ceremonies,’ Foye said. ‘There was nobody there supporting me but by (grandmothers). I’d look around to see everybody sitting down with their moms and pops. It wouldn’t really hit me until I got home.’
The situation also made for awkward moments at large family reunions that included distant relatives.
‘Everybody would be there with their parents,’ Foye said. ‘(Parents) would be like, ‘This is my kid, now he’s 10 and he’s done great’ in whatever sport he played.
‘The first question when my grandmother would walk away was, ‘Where are your mother and father?’ (My brother Chris and I) would count how many seconds it would take for a person to ask us that.
‘They would want to know everything in detail. It was hard for us to explain because we were younger, and we really didn’t know what happened until my grandma set us down and told us everything in detail when I was 14 or 15.’
It was then Foye found out that his father died in a motorcycle accident and his mother left her family two years later.
About that same time, Foye first met Contardo and Garvin in his freshman year at East Side. Foye entered lacking a certain level of discipline, and for the first two years he clashed with Garvin. Garvin was the first adult male of that type Foye had known.
‘Randy would do things like wear his walkman and dribble a basketball in school, and I took them away from him,’ Garvin said. ‘There were times when we wanted to kick him off the team too. The knucklehead came late to a game one time, and I wanted to wring his neck.’
Garvin never gave up on Foye because he saw himself in the young man. Garvin barely associated with his parents growing up in a rough section of Chicago.
‘My mother was mentally depressed in a nursing home, and my father and I didn’t get along,’ Garvin said. ‘I didn’t have anybody to go to. I understand where these kids come from.’
‘I felt the need to get (Foye) in the right direction. He was the type of kid that was savable. It was about keeping him off the streets.’
In contrast to the demanding Garvin, Contardo emerged as Foye’s gentle mentor. Foye never took any of Contardo’s classes, but met her when she frequently signed him in late to school his freshman year.
‘I realized after a little bit of time that his natural parents were not around,’ Contardo said. ‘So I took him under my wing. I don’t know how and why.
‘When I call him on his cell phone I always say it’s your other mother. I don’t ever say I’m his mother. He does have two mothers – just one of them is here and one isn’t.’
While Foye’s relationships with Contardo and Garvin were developing for the first two years, it wasn’t until his junior year when they really began to play full-time parental roles for him.
Foye’s basketball talents were his ticket to success, and Contardo and Garvin went to great lengths to make sure he capitalized. It no doubt helped that the maturing Foye trusted everything they were telling him.
Contardo became Foye’s full-time recruiting manager. In addition to coordinating all the requests from college coaches, she taught Foye how to act professionally when he went on school visits and served as his primary advisor in his college selection.
‘I wanted him to have khaki pants, a white shirt and a red tie for interviews,’ Contardo said. ‘So I bought them.
‘I wanted to make sure he knew how to speak in public so people wouldn’t say, ‘Here comes somebody from Newark.’
‘He was not going anywhere unless I felt comfortable they would take care of him.’
Garvin adjusted his whole life for Foye – inviting Foye to live with his family nearly every weekend during Foye’s senior year.
‘I opened up my house to him so he could get out of Newark,’ Garvin said. ‘There are a lot of negative things that go on outside in the streets at 12 and 1 in the morning. I wanted to make sure he had a safe haven and a place to go instead of hanging out with his friends all day.’
‘There’s actually a bed in (Garvin’s) house for Randy,’ said East Side assistant coach Anthony Tavarez. ‘(Garvin) has a little daughter – (Jayla) – who is six and still considers it Randy’s room.’
The dedicated four-year commitment of essentially two strangers to a young man in need of support culminated in a tremendous senior year for Foye. On the court, he was named New Jersey Player of the Year. Off the court, he earned better grades than ever before.
And while Foye was homesick his freshman year at Villanova, at least he now had found parents to call. He is still close with Garvin, but Contardo is one he continues to speak with nearly every day.
Contardo even regularly calls Villanova head coach Jay Wright and his staff to check up on Foye.
‘That baby doesn’t go anywhere I don’t know about,’ Contardo said. ‘I want my Randy to have everything he is supposed to have and beyond.’
Spoken like a true mother.
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