LARAMIE -- It didn't look good.

Early in the second half of a 93-88 victory over Nevada last January, Marcus Williams fired a pass toward the baseline and into the hands of fellow guard Kwane Marble. He took one step and went up toward the hoop, coaxing a pair of Nevada defenders off their feet.

He didn't attempt the bucket. Instead, Marble kicked it to the corner to a wide open Kenny Foster. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound sophomore hauled in the pass and calmly set up for the quick-release 3-pointer.

Swish.

That was the good news. The bad?

Nevada forward Robby Robinson, who was late getting to Foster, banged knees with the Cowboys' guard, sending him to the Arena-Auditorium floor, writing in pain.

Foster limped toward the home locker room and later emerged with a set of crutches and a brace on his left knee. It wasn't a torn ACL, as initially feared, but the damage was done.

"I really feel bad for him," Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder said the night Foster was injured. "He's been starting to play really well and his confidence is growing. Just the energy he was playing with, it's what we wanted him to be and he has in him. It allows you to win games."

The Aurora, Colorado product would miss the next six games. That number is deceiving though. In reality, it took him 39 days to get back on the court. Three games were canceled and another was postponed because of the ongoing pandemic. He did return for the final two contests of the regular season and both tilts in the Mountain West Tournament.

This loss, though, really hurt the Cowboys down the stretch.

Not just because Foster was the team's third-leading scorer at the time, averaging more than 10 points per game, but because in many ways, he was quietly the heart and soul of the team.

Wyoming dropped four of the six games Foster missed.

 

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"I had multiple coaches in the league -- after he got hurt -- were just like, 'man, he was playing at such a high level,'" Linder said during his initial press conference of the 2021-22 season. "It wasn't necessarily just because he was scoring a bunch of the points, it was just all the toughness and winning plays that Kenny made, just giving us a little bit more of an element of toughness.

"He's such a smart player, as well."

In the first three games Foster played last fall, he averaged more than 18 points a night in wins over Incarnate Word, Oregon State and Denver. That production earned Foster Mountain West Player of the Week honors. He wasn't the leading scorer most nights, but he was typically the guy sporting the white hardhat in the locker room and on Zoom calls after games.

That prize goes to the hardest worker on the team.

You earn that moniker when force turnovers, rebound on both ends of the floor and pick yourself up off the court numerous times a night from chasing loose balls.

That's Foster's game.

The Cowboys were one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation a year ago, pulling down just under 33 collective boards per outing. Wyoming ranked No. 300 out of 340 teams in rebound margin, sporting a minus-4.

Defensive field-goal percentage was even worse. The opposition averaged 47% from the field each night. UW also gave up nearly 76 points per game. That ranked the team No. 282 in the country.

One has to believe a healthy Foster will knock trim those numbers down.

"We might not be the most talented team in warm-ups or walking through the airport, but I do think that we could have one of the more smarter and more intelligent teams in college basketball," Linder said. "I think you'll see that on the defensive end with our ability to kind of do a lot of more."

Foster and the Cowboys will tipoff the 2021-22 season Wednesday, Nov. 10 against Detroit Mercy in Laramie.

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