Northville’s All-State baseball hit machine brings grit, tough defense to basketball court
When asked recently if he could spin a basketball on his finger for a photo, Northville senior basketball player Cullen Foley complied with the request as effortlessly as if he was asked to drop down a sacrifice bunt.
Foley is not only a disruptive talent on the hardwood for the Mustangs, he’s a returning Division 1 All-State baseball player – one of just six underclassmen to have earned the honor in the spring of 2022 (one of the others being then-sophomore teammate Dante Nori).
A playmaking guard in hoops and a sweet-swinging shortstop/third baseman on the diamond, Foley does some of his best work in the classroom, a distinction reflected in his 3.6 grade-point average.
Basketball-wise, Foley started just one game his junior season, but played almost equal minutes with fellow point guard Nolan Thomson, also a senior. Foley will start at the 1 spot this season as Thomson sits out the first few games while recovering from a stellar football season.
“We were fortunate to have Nolan and Cullen splitting time last season,” said Northville Head Coach Todd Sander. “They both bring a little bit of a different feel on the offensive end, but they both pride themselves on their defense. They’re both unselfish and like getting the ball to their teammates.
“Cullen is a fierce competitor. It doesn’t matter what he’s playing – marbles, video games, basketball, baseball or touch football – he wants to win and will do anything it takes to win.”
A left-handed-hitting infielder, Foley admitted his first love in terms of athletics is baseball, probably because he’s been playing it longer than baseball.
“I’ve been playing baseball since T-ball and I didn’t start playing basketball until sixth grade,” he said. “I love them both, though. I love competing.”
Foley said he realized his baseball skills maybe at least a little above average when his 12-year-old Northville travel team visited Cooperstown, New York for a tournament that regularly draws upwards of 60 of the best 12-year-old teams in the country.
“I had a good tournament and our team did really well (10th out of 60),” Foley recounted.
Foley’s freshman baseball season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He played a few games at the junior varsity level as a sophomore before getting promoted to varsity, where he has excelled ever since. Foley hit around .350 as a junior.
The senior’s skills are flashy on the diamond, gritty on the court. Sander said Foley can score and pass at a high level, but his game-changing plays generally come when the other team has the ball.
“Cullen is one of those guys who is always diving on the floor for loose balls, guarding the other team’s best guard – the things that don’t always show up in the boxscore,” Sander said. “He might seem pretty laid back off the court, but once he steps on it, he’s all business.”
Foley said his highlight game from the 2021-22 basketball season was probably the Mustangs’ Class A District championship triumph over Canton when he guarded the Chiefs’ best shooter, Lake McIntosh.
“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” he said. “If I’m guarding a player who has a height advantage on me, I know I have to play tough and physical … and try and frustrate them.”
Foley revealed his favorite class is Ancient History, where he learned about Sparta, a warrior society in ancient Greece that undoubtedly would have appreciated his gritty, winning work ethic.
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