OSKALOOSA, Iowa — Xavier Foster does not care if you do not like him.
Actually, the 7-foot tall high school senior from Oskaloosa embraces your dislike. He channels it for his own aggression to be unleashed against overmatched opponents on the basketball court.
On Monday, Foster surely garnered a new group of haters by announcing his decision to continue his basketball career at Iowa State over arch-rival, and his lifelong favorite team, Iowa.
“You don’t want people to like you,” Foster told Cyclone Fanatic in the Oskaloosa High School gym. “I play better when I’m pissed off, so I wish they would (dislike me).”
Foster represents one of the biggest recruiting victories of the Steve Prohm era at Iowa State. The state’s top recruit, and No. 59 player in the class overall per 247SportsComposite, elevates the Cyclones’ 2020 recruiting class to No. 14 nationally.
He is the program’s fifth highest-rated commitment in the 247 era dating back to 2000. The two players in front of him, Matt Thomas and Talen Horton-Tucker, are currently on NBA rosters. The one in front of them, Lindell Wigginton just started his rookie season with the Iowa Wolves and was the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year last season. The man at the top, Craig Brackins, was a first-round NBA Draft selection.
So yeah, Foster is in some pretty high-level company, but it does not necessarily guarantee immediate success in Ames. He remains slender in his huge frame and will have to make a smooth adjustment to the college game.
Even for the four guys who came to Ames rated higher than him, professional success was earned rather than given. We could just ask the guy who got bumped to No. 6 on the list of Iowa State’s all-time recruits with Foster’s commitment — Georges Niang.
“The players have to do their part. We discussed it,” Foster’s father, DeJuan, told CF when asked about the impact of Iowa State’s success putting players in the NBA. “I always tell him, because you go to Iowa State or wherever, it doesn’t mean you’re going to go to the NBA. You still have to go and put in the work.”
At the end of the day, Iowa State was the place where Foster was most comfortable. He built a solid relationship with Prohm and assistant coach Daniyal Robinson, who deserves major props for his work done in securing Foster’s commitment.
The Cyclones were the second school to offer Foster during the fall of his freshman year of high school, following only the Hawkeyes. In the following three years, Foster visited Ames dozens of times, both officially and unofficially.
He has built relationships with current Cyclones Tyrese Haliburton, George Conditt, Mike Jacobson and others. Even while other schools joined Foster’s list of suitors, and it was a long list, Iowa State continued to stay at the forefront.
“(Prohm’s) been preaching the fact that they need me,” Foster said of Iowa State’s recruiting pitch. “They love my play style. They love the way that I fit the program.”
Foster’s fit in the program will certainly be a hot topic in the coming days and months leading up to his arrival in Ames next summer. He is an athletic 7-footer that fits the mold of a stretch-four more than he does a true center.
He is capable of knocking down shots from the 3-point line and is an elite rim protector considering he blocked nearly six shots per game as a junior last year for the Indians.
Iowa State’s frontcourt of the future now features Foster and Conditt. That’s two 7-footers with a whole lot of length, a whole lot of rim protection and a whole lot of athleticism.
“I do. I definitely do,” Foster said on if he likes his fit next to the Cyclones’ sophomore big man. “We can stretch the floor a little bit. We will be a run and gun team.”
Back to how big of a win this was for Prohm and his staff for a moment, the idea of Iowa State going into Oskaloosa, a town squarely in what most folks would probably consider Hawk country, and pulling the state’s top recruit, who happens to be a lifelong Iowa fan, would have seemed rather unrealistic just a few years ago. Frankly, I am not sure how much effort Iowa State’s previous staff would have put into doing it, which is not a knock but a further bullet point of the contrast between Prohm’s approach on the recruiting trail and the previous one.
Not even Foster would have expected things to end up this way.
“I wouldn’t believe it. I would have been like, ‘I’m going to Iowa,'” Foster said. “I have always been an Iowa fan, but I just feel like Iowa State was a little better fit for me.”
Now, Foster will sign his letter of intent on Wednesday then play his senior season in high school without the pressure of making a college decision. That said, there will now be an outside pressure of performing to expectations as the state’s top prospect at one of the state’s top schools after spurning the program’s biggest rival.
But Foster embraces the pressure. He sees it as a good thing, especially when it comes in the form of dislike. Because, remember, Xavier Foster does not care if you do not like him.
For those who do, the folks in Ames and wearing Cardinal and Gold across the state on this Monday, he had this message.
“We’re doing something big,” Foster said with a smile.
Something big is coming, indeed.