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DALLAS — Xavier Foster has been in Texas for only a few months, but the Iowa native and former Iowa State Cyclone already has taken to his new surroundings.
“It’s been great, just adjusting to living in Dallas compared to Iowa, understanding where I’m at and how blessed I truly am,” said Foster, who transferred to SMU earlier this year. “I’m in such a great position. This isn’t one (opportunity) we can blow.”
A high school standout at Oskaloosa, where he averaged 23.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in 16 games as a senior, he played seven games for Iowa State in 2020-21 before his season was cut short by right foot surgery. The 7-foot sophomore arrived at SMU in time for one of Dallas’ hottest summers in recent history.
However, the heat didn’t bother this affable big man.
“That’s what I was asking for. I told everybody I wanted to move somewhere a bit warmer than Iowa because I hate the cold. I’m not complaining,” Foster said.
As of mid-October, he didn’t have his car, a Ford Mustang, in Dallas, so he hasn’t had the chance to explore his new surroundings. However, he has had plenty of time to work out with his new teammates. And he’s already made a favorable first impression on his fellow Mustangs.
“He’s big and not a lot of big people can really shoot,” said SMU sophomore guard Zhuric Phelps. “That’s really going to help us in big-time games, him shooting at crunchtime.”
Foster joins an SMU program currently in transition. In March, Tim Jankovich, a program fixture for the past decade — the last six years as head coach and the previous four as the top assistant under Hall of Famer Larry Brown — announced his retirement. Rob Lanier, who led Georgia State to the 2022 Sun Belt tournament championship and the 2022 NCAA tournament, replaced him.
The Mustangs also must replace their top four scorers from last season, a list headlined by Kendric Davis, the leading scorer (19.4 ppg) in the American Athletic Conference and conference player of the year who transferred to Memphis after Jankovich’s retirement.
However, as one of eight SMU newcomers, Foster has no doubt once this talented group gels, they will win.
“I love this team. I believe we have everything we need as a group,” he said. “It comes down to how quick we can mesh and become a team to know everybody’s going to lock down and make the right play, the right read. Having confidence is going to be the biggest thing. I have no doubt what we can do.”
Foster views his one season in Ames from a glass half-full perspective, an experience which showed him what parts of his game and life he had to improve. One of those changes was being more receptive to feedback from coaches, a lesson which came into play earlier this summer.
“Since I’ve been here, I have seen one slip-up in being on time. I was late to a practice,” he said. “The coaches have helped me so much with time management, being 45 minutes early. Since that slip-up, there hasn’t been too much I’ve messed up.”
A foot injury shortened his time at ISU, but that foot is 100 percent healed and Foster is ready to contribute in whatever role Lanier gives him as a Mustang.
“I’ve haven’t felt this good in a long time, feeling confident to contest a shot, block a shot,” he said. “Even running has been so much better, having faith to plant off of my foot to turn, twist and being able to make athletic moves has been incredible.”
Several months ago, Foster uprooted his life, leaving the only state he’d ever lived in, leaving behind friends, family and even his beloved dog, a Cane Corso, and his car for a place where he didn’t know anyone.
However, looking back he realizes deciding to move to Texas was a no-brainer.
“Leaving family was the hardest part because mom’s always at every game. Dad’s been my coach my whole life. It is hard to not be with them, but they’ve been good,” he said. “I try to keep in contact. My parents were always there. I enjoyed playing when we would win. I haven’t been on a winning team in my college career yet. I really haven’t gotten to experience and enjoy that part of the basketball part. We’ll see how it goes.”
Foster said his parents, Kristi and Dajuan, are purchasing an RV to drive to his games. The traveling party will not only include his parents and sister, Dasia, but also the family dogs.
When asked what skills he brings to SMU, he said effort and energy, two qualities every successful basketball team is never short on.
“If I’m not a starter, (I need) to come off the bench and push, run my butt off for three or four minutes,” he said. “With this size, if we’re running hard it’s going to bring open layups and get other people open. There’s (not) anything I can’t bring to the table. If (it’s not) energy, it’s effort, make an extra play on a 50/50 ball, something like that, to help in any way.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.