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, email@example.com
SHAWNEE, Kan. — Xavier Foster rarely checks his direct message requests on Twitter.
For a five-star prospect, lots of those come from fans trying to convince him to pick their school, or from skeptical armchair scouts who think they know more than the college coaches pursuing him.
Every now and then, though, there's something important.
So, before April's one and only live recruiting period, Foster checked his inbox.
And, yeah, there was something pretty important: A North Carolina assistant coach asked when and where Foster's AAU team would play over the weekend.
"He didn't even tell us at first," Foster's dad, DaJuan Foster, said with a laugh.
With the contact from UNC, Xavier Foster now has some sort of interest from Roy Williams' team, Duke, Kentucky and Kansas — arguably the four top blue-blood programs in college basketball. The Jayhawks are the only ones who have offered.
Foster, a major Iowa and Iowa State target, entered his junior season as a national recruit with high-majors all over him.
Now, he enters the spring and summer after his junior season — when most recruitment actually takes place — with the sport's foremost programs watching. And that begs the question: Could Foster become Iowa's next blue-blood product?
Linn-Mar's Marcus Paige and Ames' Harrison Barnes were the last two to do it, both picking North Carolina in 2012 and 2010, respectively.
"(He's going) to show the world that he belongs in the upper echelon with the other five-stars," BG Regins, Foster's AAU coach with Pure Prep Academy, said. "He’s right there. I think he belongs right up there in the top 10, if not the top five. Because it’s based on upside, correct? It’s based on the next-level potential.
"He’s proven it. He came out in the first game of the live period and made a big statement that he belongs in the upper echelon with those top-10 guys."
UNC didn't wind up attending one of Foster's games in this live period.
Duke did. It showed the most interest of the blue-bloods over the weekend. Assistant coach Nate James watched both of Foster's games on Friday, spending essentially two-thirds of the live period's first day focused on the Oskaloosa 7-footer.
Foster played especially well in his first game, when he logged a triple-double in points, blocks and rebounds. He protected the rim, used powerful dribble moves to score inside, hogged the boards, flashed his outside shot, dribbled well and ran the floor in transition.
He can showcase his skills better in an AAU game than in a high school setting, where he often has three or four guys swarm him when he touches the ball down low.
Still, there is room for growth. Plenty of it. DaJuan Foster said they continue to work on playing at a high level when Xavier is tired — running on a consistently high motor.
That's OK, though. No colleges, even the Dukes of the world, don't expect Foster to be a finished product. Upside is a vital factor in a prospect's stock, especially with bigs.
DaJuan Foster said that's been a prevalent message from schools recruiting his son — that they really like him now, but they're thrilled with what he could be in a couple years.
"The thing I forget all the time is he’s still only 16 years old. I mean, he’s a kid. This is all building on him just maturing and getting older as a person," DaJuan said. "Everything is based on potential. Bigs don’t come into their own until they get to college and finally grow into their bodies and understand how to move and understand their motor. And we’re working on that."
Xavier Foster said he's noticed more blue-blood activity with his recruitment, but he isn't reading too much into it right now. Interest comes and goes. He's focusing on what he can control — excelling on the floor.
And he did that over the weekend, playing the best he ever has on the AAU circuit.
"I’ve been playing up (in age levels) my whole life, and now I’m finally at my own age group," he said. "When we first stated, since I’m from a small school, the game seemed really fast to me. And since we’ve been playing, everything has kind of slowed down. I’ve been able to play my own game."
With April's live period over, colleges now have until Thursday to visit or scout kids. USC and Iowa State are expected to visit Foster this week.
We'll see if Michigan picks up its interest; assistant coach Luke Yaklich watched Foster on Friday.
Colleges will have their next chance to see Foster from June 13-14 at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, a prestigious event for the country's best recruits. Bettendorf point guard D.J. Carton was invited last year.
Most of May and June is a quiet period, though, which means colleges can only make in-person contact with a prospect on their campus. You'll see lots of official visits during this time. Foster, for instance, has scheduled an official visit to Baylor for late June.
Then, in July, there's the second live recruiting period from July 11-14 and a new NCAA development camp from July 23-28.
Foster plans to play out this spring and summer and see where his recruitment stands, then perhaps take more officials in the summer or fall and make a decision from there.
So, if a blue-blood decides to eventually go all-in, there is time.
"We'll just see what happens," Foster said.
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.