Iowa Men's Basketball

Hlas: Xavier Foster big for Iowa State, big loss for Iowa

Oskaloosa 7-footer is second premier in-state recruit to elude Iowa in two years

Oskaloosa’s Xavier Foster (34) tries to keep the ball away from Marion’s Owen Puk (20) during the second quarter of Oskaloosa’s Class 3A win in the quarterfinals of the Iowa boys’ state basketball tournament at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena last March 5. (The Gazette)
Oskaloosa’s Xavier Foster (34) tries to keep the ball away from Marion’s Owen Puk (20) during the second quarter of Oskaloosa’s Class 3A win in the quarterfinals of the Iowa boys’ state basketball tournament at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena last March 5. (The Gazette)

Math being what it is, almost every college athletics program loses out on top recruits more than they land them.

So it’s more than understandable for Iowa State to have reached for confetti and party horns after Xavier Foster’s Monday announcement he was bringing his 7-foot self from Oskaloosa to Ames next season to play basketball for Steve Prohm’s Cyclones.

That’s a recruiting win, to say the least. Foster is a 4-star guy Prohm had been recruiting for three years. When there’s a prep like Foster just 90 miles away in your own state, it wounds you if he goes elsewhere. Especially in a state like Iowa, where there are never enough 4-stars to form any sort of demographic.

It’s also understandable for Iowa Hawkeyes people to wear more black today than gold. Because Fran McCaffery also recruited Foster for three years, and Foster lives just 80 miles from Iowa City.

The crowd was small when Oskaloosa was upset by Cedar Rapids Jefferson on a Saturday night in the U.S. Cellular last January. But McCaffery and his son, Patrick, were there, sitting in the front row behind a baseline, not missing a chance to let Foster know he was always on their minds.

Patrick McCaffery, by the way, was a 4-star recruit like Foster. His recruitment for Iowa a slam dunk, but there are a lot of big programs that would have welcomed him. So that one goes in Fran McCaffery’s ledger no matter his unbeatable home court advantage.

Hawkeye sophomore wing Joe Wieskamp of Muscatine was as 4-star as 4-star gets. McCaffery locked him up early, and that was a win. Wieskamp has the goods, and all who saw him play in high school knew it.

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But in-state misses are painful enough at Iowa without the added element of Iowa State being the victor. Not getting Foster, who blocks or alters opponents’ shots like few college players do, hurts.

It will be interesting to see if it is as haunting as much as not signing 5-star point guard D.J. Carton of Bettendorf. Iowa was among his final six choices, but his final three were Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State.

In his first game for Ohio State last week, Carton came off the bench to play 25 minutes, make 3 of 4 3-pointers, and help the Buckeyes to a 64-56 comeback win over Cincinnati.

“I’ve never coached a guy with his burst,” Ohio State Coach Chris Holtmann said after that game. “He’s got the best 0-to-60 I’ve coached. That can be a game-changer. Sometimes it can get ahead of you and you can get to playing too fast but we loved that about him when we recruited him.”

For what seems like forever, Hawkeye fans have lusted for a point guard who fits that description. Had Carton been from Chicago or Detroit and Iowa had lost a pitched recruiting battle for him, it would be more quickly forgotten. But Bettendorf is 60 miles from Iowa City, and Carton’s presence in the Big Ten will be a vivid reminder of what left the state.

Connor McCaffery, Fran’s other son on the Hawkeyes, will play significant point guard minutes at Iowa this season and the next two. Maybe he becomes an ideal player for that position in McCaffery’s system. You’d sure love to have Carton, though.

Foster, meanwhile, is the rare center from our state that has captivated college coaches.

With his wingspan, athleticism and ability to step outside and hit occasional 3-pointers on top of his defensive capabilities (6.2 blocks per game last season at Osky), Foster could be a dynamo at Iowa State. There are no guarantees, of course, especially with big men.

It seems remotely possible Prohm mentioned to Foster that eight former Cyclone players of recent vintage currently have NBA contracts. ISU sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton, who totaled 27 points and 26 points in his first two games this season, is a consensus first-rounder in most NBA 2020 mock drafts.

Just one former Hawkeye, Tyler Cook, is on an NBA roster.

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Iowa’s task is now to land a different big man for 2020, presumably from a more-distant location. Iowa State, which hasn’t signed a men’s basketball player from Iowa out of high school since Clinton’s Brady Ernst (now at Drake) in 2015, sure got a big one Monday.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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