It is never a bad thing when a top-10 national prospect pays a visit.
Amid a hectic month full of national events like USA Basketball and the Pangos All-American Camp, local stuff like Indiana All-Stars, and practice and games with Indianapolis Cathedral H.S. — there hasn’t been much time for college visits for 2023 5-star Xavier Booker.
But Indiana asked and Booker came for an unofficial visit he weaved into his schedule along with his parents.
He also managed to get in stops at Purdue and Notre Dame in the last couple weeks.
But you shouldn’t necessarily interpret those visits as meaning Booker’s recruitment is taking a more local turn.
It’s simply the best he can do right now.
“Really the only other reason I haven’t gone on any other visits far away is just my time, I’m just busy a lot,” Booker told The Daily Hoosier on Sunday at Carmel H.S. between games at the Charlie Hughes shootout.
Booker sat on a wrestling mat, covered in sweat, exhausted not just by the game he just played, but by an ankle that was bothering him, and no doubt the mental grind of a national, high-profile recruitment, and the promise of a professional career off in the not-so-distant future.
It’s a lot for a rising high school senior, and the 6-foot-11 Booker’s profile seems to only grow by the day. He had the freshman gym at Carmel packed with fans hoping to get a closer look, and college coaches who hoped he got a look at them.
It was a “whose who” of regional coaches, including at various points Purdue’s Matt Painter, Michigan’s Juwan Howard, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann, Illinois’ Brad Underwood and Notre Dame’s Mike Brey. IU had someone at all of Booker’s games over the weekend too, and three at the last — assistants Brian Walsh and Yasir Rosemond, and new recruiting director Jordan Hulls.
The challenge in front of Booker now is to begin to distill all the attention down to a more manageable group. He can only take five official visits as a senior, and his plan is to take notice of who seems to want him the most, and go from there.
“Really just the schools that have already reached out and said that they want me to come,” Booker said when asked how he will cut his list and decide what visits to take. “I have one scheduled right now, to go to Ohio State the weekend of Sept. 3. The other ones I’m just planning those based on whatever schools show me the most interest.”
There for every step along the way has been Booker’s family. He leans heavily on his father for guidance through what has become a challenging process.
“Their role is really heavy,” Booker said of his parents. “My dad is my main resource. The coaches call my mom but she’s not really too heavily into it, but she’s definitely a part of it.”
Booker says geography won’t play a role in his college decision, but the clear bond with his family can’t hurt Indiana’s chances along with the other schools within a relatively short drive.
The ability to make a quick trip helped IU get Booker and his family to Bloomington for at least the third time in the last year. He described what he saw a couple weeks ago during his latest stop at the IU campus along with his parents.
“We watched practice, we had a meeting with the coaches and they were just telling me about the program more, and how heavily they are interested in me and how they see me in their system, and they see me as a big part of their family and their atmosphere and everything,” he told The Daily Hoosier.
In addition to the obvious openings in the frontcourt created by the departures of veterans Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson after the upcoming season, Woodson delivered a message about a wide-open playing style with complimentary players that resonated with Booker.
“Coach was talking about playing (at IU) with other guys who could do stuff similar to me, who can pass and shoot the ball, and kind of like my position-wise, just people my height I could play around and run the high-low, and how I could stretch the floor and shoot the ball, bring the ball up the floor, and make decisions.”
Playing style, early opportunities to see the floor, and a growing comfort level with the coaching staff seems to have IU, at the least, in a good spot to legitimately compete for one of those five senior year official visits.
Booker commented last week that at least in some ways, IU presented a perfect fit. He expanded on that remark.
“They (the IU staff) talked about the family atmosphere down there. It’s a really good fit with the coaching staff. I have a good relationship with all of them really,” Booker said.
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