Basketball

STANZ: Oskaloosa’s program changer

OSKALOOSA, Iowa — Ryan Parker had fun with the process… or at least for a little bit.

The head basketball coach at Oskaloosa High School was fielding calls from college basketball coaches across the country. All of them wanted to ask about a talented young freshman in his program — Xavier Foster.

That was three years ago now. Foster, the 7-foot tall consensus best player in the state of Iowa, had not yet played a high school basketball game. In fact, the first time Parker fielded a call about him, Foster had not participated in one high school basketball practice.

On Monday, the process that had grown to wear on Parker, not to mention Foster and his family, culminated with a press conference and an announcement in the Oskaloosa gymnasium.

Xavier Foster is going to Iowa State.

“The way I explain it to people is let’s say Steve Prohm calls you on Tuesday and then calls you on Thursday,” Parker told Cyclone Fanatic. “What do you tell him on Thursday that’s any different than Tuesday? Those conversations are great at first and then just what else do you tell them? Especially the last couple of weeks have probably been the most stressful because I’ve seen Xa be more stressful. I’ve had to be that guiding light and counselor. Before, I’ve just been Coach.”

The process of mentoring a recruit was nothing really new to Parker. His program produced another Division I recruit just last year in Northern Iowa big man Cole Henry.

But this was a completely different animal.

Considered to be the state’s top recruit and the No. 59 high school basketball player in the country by 247SportsComposite, Foster has completely changed the perception of Oskaloosa basketball.

“We call it the ‘Xavier Foster Effect,’ where you walk into a gym and every place is packed,” Parker said. “We go into gyms and people are locking doors because there are no more seats.”

In the four years prior to Foster’s high school career, the Indians won just 16 games — combined. Entering his senior season, the program has a 57-18 record during his career.

The school played in its first Class 3A state championship game in 2017, losing to a veteran Glenwood team 66-62 at Wells Fargo Arena. Foster was named to the All-Tournament Team.

Last year, the Indians were back in the state title game, but this time they left Des Moines with the school’s first boys basketball state championship trophy thanks to a 48-44 win over Norwalk. Foster was named first-team All-Class 3A by the Des Moines Register to a cap a junior season in which he averaged 14.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per game.

“We go into Wells Fargo Arena and it’s like he’s a rockstar,” Parker said. “That’s program changing. It really is.”

Before Foster could fully turn his eyes toward his senior season and a bid for back-to-back state championships, he hoped to make his college decision. He cut his list of college options to five with Iowa State, Iowa, Providence, Baylor and Virginia Tech remaining under consideration.

He cut his list again to just the Cyclones and Hawkeyes prior to his announcement on Monday. The state’s two biggest schools going head-to-head for the state’s highest-rated post player since Adam Woodbury came out of Sioux City East in 2012.

“There’s no two schools that worked harder than those two,” Parker said. “Those two programs worked hard. I’m not surprised it came down to those two in the end, because they’re both an hour and a half away and both are big-name programs. It probably did put a little bit more added pressure and probably a little more hate in the rivalry, but I think even on Friday when I was with him at the Iowa game, he was torn. It wasn’t like he was trying to rub it in Iowa’s face of Iowa State’s face. He was trying to find answers. He found them over the weekend.”

Foster did find them over the weekend and despite growing up a lifelong Iowa fan, he will be headed to Ames for a college career that has sky-high potential. His immediate role at Iowa State could be small as he develops his body and skills to translate to the college game.

But when asked about Foster’s future, his high school coach’s eyes light up and his smile widens.

“The sky is the limit. There’s one thing that he does that really goes to every level and that’s block shots. He blocks six a game in high school. If he can block three a game in college, I mean, he’s going to the pros. How soon? What level of pros? I don’t know,” Parker said. “But, I think it’s one of those things where the sky is the limit for him. We’re talking NBA, a lottery pick, whatever he puts his mind to, he can get there.”

Oskaloosa’s program changer is going to be a Cyclone.

Jared Stansbury

administrator

Jared is in his sixth year covering Iowa State football and basketball for Cyclone Fanatic. He's the site's lead reporter for ISU recruiting. He worked as the site's intern for three years while studying Journalism in Iowa State's Greenlee School of Journalism. He started as the full-time staff writer in May 2016. Jared spent five falls covering Iowa high school football as a reporter for KMA Radio, 1460 KXNO and 1430 KASI.