Recruiting mailbag: Xavier Foster released his final five. What's the breakdown?

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Five-star 2020 power forward Xavier Foster showed off strength inside during the first day of April’s live period in Kansas City.
Matthew Bain, mbain@dmreg.com

Welcome, once again, to the recruiting mailbag.

As always, feel free to send me questions over Twitter or to mbain@dmreg.com. I know I do the weekly call-out for questions on Twitter on Monday, but I’m happy take questions any other day of the week, too.

Let’s get to this week’s answers.

Where would you predict (Xavier Foster will) go, and which schools would you say are the least likely? — @ted_rood

Oskaloosa’s Xavier Foster, the top-ranked in-state 2020 boys’ basketball prospect, released his final five schools on Monday — Iowa, Iowa State, Baylor, Providence and Virginia Tech.

Now, Foster and his family are truly in the home stretch.

As of Tuesday night, I was told Foster didn’t have any visits locked in. On Monday, his father, DaJuan Foster, told me they were hoping to check out all the finalists. He can take official visits to Providence and Virginia Tech pretty much any time in August or fall. Visits to Iowa, Iowa State and Baylor would have to be unofficial until a year has passed since his junior-year officials to those schools — Sept. 7-9 for Iowa; Oct. 12-14 for Iowa State and late June for Baylor.

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A near-endless number of factors will play into Foster’s decision. But from being around this recruitment for a while, a couple stand out.

One is fit. How do his unique attributes — 7 feet, skilled, can score from anywhere on the floor, isn’t a constant pound-it-down-low guy, likes to run — fit with a team? If a program has demonstrated success with skilled, athletic bigs, that’s a plus.

A second big factor is Foster’s relationship with the coaches. He wants to play for a staff that wants him. Not a staff that just sees him as a highly ranked kid who they offered because they needed to, but a staff who loves the value Foster brings and has a clear view of how he can make an impact right away.

With all that said, here’s a breakdown of his final five schools at this point:

Iowa and Iowa State

Yeah, I’m putting the Hawkeyes and Cyclones together. Sue me. It still feels like Foster staying in Iowa is the most likely scenario. If that proves to be true, it’s about a coin flip between Iowa and Iowa State. Both staffs have created authentic, strong relationships with the family, and both staffs feel good about where they stand.

Foster may wait to officially visit Iowa after Sept. 7-9 and Iowa State after Oct. 12-14. But unofficial visits would be better if he wants to make his decision sooner. Both staffs would likely try to align Foster’s visit with an official visit from one or more other targets.

Baylor

Baylor has been the sleeper here. The Bears offered him during an unofficial visit in April 2018, and they’ve been constantly involved since. Even dating back to last July, Baylor was always high on Foster’s list.

Scott Drew already has a solid class in four-star power forward Dain Dainja and four-star point guard LJ Cryer. Despite playing similar positions, I’m told Dainja’s commitment has zero impact on how Foster views Baylor. In fact, I personally think Dainja is an asset. Can you imagine Foster playing the 5 and Dainja playing for 4 with three shooters around them?

Providence

Head coach Ed Cooley has done some great work. He has been heavily involved since Providence offered in May, and he has made a strong impression on the family.

If Foster wants something completely different, Providence can provide that — the Big East can provide that. Unlike his other four finalists, Providence is a basketball school, through and through. There’s no Division I football there. That fan base is all about hoops. That’s the way it is in the Big East.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is the newest entrant in the battle for Foster. It can provide something no other school in Foster’s final five can: the opportunity to play in the ACC. There’s clearly some appeal there. Otherwise, I’m not sure a school that offers Foster in late July makes a final five that he releases on Aug. 5.

I’d imagine the Hokies would like to get Foster on campus during a big football weekend. They have three consecutive home games the first three weeks of September. 

Where does Caitlin Clark end up? — @kirtcarstens

In case you missed it: Five-star, top-five national prospect Caitlin Clark told me on Monday that she was down to a final three — Notre Dame, Iowa and Iowa State.

This feels like a split between Notre Dame and staying in state. So, if you want to break it down by numbers, that’s 50% Notre Dame and then 25% for both the Hawkeyes and the Cyclones.

The Fighting Irish have undeniable clout. Two NCAA championships. Nine Final Fours. Seventeen Sweet 16s. A Hall of Fame coach in Muffet McGraw.

They also have a track record of producing not only WNBA players, but WNBA guards.

And Clark is clear about her professional aspirations.

In the most recent WNBA Draft, Notre Dame became the first program in history to have all five starters selected in the first 20 picks. That included No. 1 overall pick Jackie Young, a guard, and No. 5 pick Arike Ogunbowale, also a guard. Skylar Diggins-Smith, Lindsay Allen and Jewell Lloyd are a few of the program’s other success stories.

But, one could argue Notre Dame produces a lot of WNBA players because it often lands the best prospects in the country. You could also argue that, if you’re good enough, the Big Ten or Big 12 are plenty big enough stages to impress scouts.

These are all things Clark will have to consider.

“A lot of them will bring (their WNBA players) up,” she said of her final three. “They’ll have a wall that says all their pros or everyone that plays in the WNBA, and that’s just cool to see — who they’ve put there, especially if it’s a point guard. That’s cool for me to see — to see that they’ve done that before with a point guard.”

Who are (the Hawkeyes) still going after with such a full 2020 class already? — @tnutz2469

With 22 recruits already lined up in the 2020, Iowa has only a few more high-level targets that it’s pursuing right now — tight end Theo Johnson and defensive end Deontae Craig obviously come to mind.

Then, the Hawkeyes will get back into evaluation mode to gauge who they want to get with their final few scholarships.

I discussed some potential junior college targets in last week’s mailbag

In terms of high school prospects Iowa may track through fall and winter, here are a few to keep your eye on:

Three-star DT CJ West (La Grange Park, Illinois): The former Minnesota recruit told me he has received interest from Kelvin Bell and Iowa lately. And that interest is definitely mutual; West has family that live in Iowa City and work for the school.

Northern Iowa DE recruit Cade Moore (Centerville): A 6-6, in-state prospect, Moore committed to the Panthers in June. After that, Jay Niemann reached out to Moore and wanted to get him on campus. They have remained in contact since, he told me.

Northern Iowa DT/DE recruit Hayden Amos (Carlisle): Another in-state talent, Amos also committed to UNI in June after attending camp at Iowa a couple weeks prior. Iowa has remained in contact since, he told me. Amos also holds offers from South Dakota and South Dakota State. 

DE/LB Queden Ballew (Des Moines): The Des Moines East product told me he’s in contact with Niemann. He visited in March.

North Dakota State DT recruit Nolan Jacobs (Cedar Rapids): The Cedar Rapids Kennedy product just flipped from South Dakota to North Dakota State. And when the Bison recruit a kid in your state, you pay attention — especially at a position of need.

What players does Iowa State look at to finish their football class? — @LoganHayes_30

Again, if you want to know some junior college guys Iowa State is tracking (including a Finnish lineman it just offered), check out last week’s mailbag.

In terms of high school prospects Iowa State may track through fall and winter, here are a few to keep your eye on:

Two-star DE Kwame Achampong (Chicago): Achampong holds a handful of FCS and Ivy League offers, but he told me he talked to Iowa State on Tuesday about potentially visiting Ames for a game day this fall. 

Bowling Green DE/DT recruit Dontrez Brown (Fremont, Ohio): Iowa State has maintained an interest in Brown, he told me, including asking for his coach’s number. Brown also holds offers from Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Ball State.

DT Kobe Clayborne (Sioux City): The Bishop Heelan product is also a high-level wrestler. Stanford has offered him a wrestling scholarship, and the football team gave him a preferred walk-on offer. He also just received an offer from Army. He told me Iowa State wants him to come for a game day visit and said they’ll watch his games this fall.

Three-star DE James Thompson (Cincinnati): Thompson, who recently picked up his first Power 5 offer from Wisconsin, is poised for a big senior year. Don’t be surprised if Iowa State keeps an eye on him.

North Dakota State DT recruit Nolan Jacobs (Cedar Rapids): Jacobs told me he’s heard a bit from Iowa State. 

S/ATH Drew Jirak (West Des Moines): The Valley product holds a Division II Minnesota State offer and told me the Cyclones want to get him up for a game day visit.

Three-star DT CJ West (La Grange Park, Illinois): West told me he has also heard from Iowa State.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at @dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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Source: Des Moines Register